A brief history of the Rosebud County Fairgrounds and the Rosebud-Treasure County Fair 

County fairs have been held around the United States for nearly 200 years. Citizens in agricultural communities thought it would be a great idea to display produce grown in their area and thus began the tradition of competing for the prize crop.

Livestock were added to the competitions later, and eventually county fairs evolved into a once-a-year extravaganza that people look forward to for a fun experience. Agricultural displays of crops and vegetables still appear, with newer features regularly added to involve the whole community.

The Rosebud County Fair began in 1906, and with the exception of two years, it has continued to bring excitement and reward every year to thousands of residents of Rosebud and Treasure Counties and the surrounding area. In 1934, the fair was canceled due to drought, grasshoppers, and Mormon crickets. German prisoners-of-war occupied the
fairgrounds in 1945, so the fair was also canceled for that year. In 2020, due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the fair was still held, but in a much-abbreviated format.

Treasure County split from Rosebud County in 1919 but has always been included as part of the fair, with 4-H also becoming a large part of the overall show. Our historic exhibition hall was built sometime in the early part of the 20th century. The current grandstand, concession facilities and restrooms were built in 1975. 

In the early days, the fair was held after harvest, in September. Later, it was moved to August and finally around 1990, to its current late-July time. Thoroughbred horse racing, variety shows and rodeo were the primary entertainment until the 1980s. Since then, top-name entertainment has been highlighted with grandstand night shows, featuring such stars as Charley Pride, the Bellamy Brothers, Sawyer Brown, Neal McCoy, Ronnie Milsap, Tracy Lawrence, Clay Walker, Rodney Atkins, the Charlie Daniels Band, and Tracy Byrd.

The Demolition Derby, sponsored first by the Lowlanders Car Club and then by the local American Legion post, began in the early 1970s and ran for many years before being retired after 2012. It was replaced by the Bump-n-Run 2013 which ran for three years. The Demolition Derby returned for the 2017 fair and has returned to being our top selling show.

Mixed Martial Arts bouts were held on Thursday nights for two years in the early 2010s.  A Ranch Rodeo was held for eight years from 2012 to 2019.  A PRCA sanctioned rodeo returned to the fair in 2020.

The fairgrounds is in use almost weekly during most of the year with various events taking place, everything from weddings to ropings to soccer games to auctions. In 2007, the rough carnival midway area was upgraded to an all-grass midway thanks to federal grants. The grass midway is much easier (and cooler!) to walk on, cleaner, and provides a much nicer environment for the carnival area. As of this writing we have the only grass midway in eastern Montana.

A historic barn on the west edge of the fairgrounds, which was used for many years to house 4-H livestock during the fair, became unsafe and was razed in 2015. A new building was built in that area and is used not only for the 4-H, but can be used for winter storage. Additional restrooms are planned for the area just north of the Exhibit Hall to replace the original, outdated facilities.

Rosebud County takes pride in its fairgrounds, and new features have been added yearly to make the facility a great place for gatherings of all types. Our new front gate was built and installed in two steps, in 2012 and 2013, with improved lighting and other features to be added as the budget allows.  Improved lighting for the rodeo arena was completed in 2020, thanks to a Montana Coal Board grant secured by fair manager, Chaun Scott.  An upgraded sound system was installed in the grandstand and arena as well. New old-fashioned-style midway lighting, with lamp-posts available for memorial purchaes, will be completed in time for the 2021 fair, as will new lighting in the grandstand.  An improved ticket boxoffice and grounds-wide PA system are on the list of upcoming projects.

The Exhibit Hall, which hosts thousands of people annually, has had many improvments in recent years. Air conditioning was added in time for the 2011 fair. Since then the hall has been upgraded to a year-round facility, including a full commercial kitchen, restrooms, new doors and windows, wintertime heat, and beautiful new concrete flooring. It is a great place for gatherings that are too large for other local facilities, and has become one of the top facilities in the region for weddings. 

Improvements to the fairgrounds are always in the planning stages, and the Fair Board welcomes comments and suggestions from the public. Many changes have challenged fair board members, especially in recent years, and new decisions with these changing times continue to be made. Our Mission Statement highlights the entertainment, fun, 4-H, and special attractions that make Rosebud-Treasure County Fair one of the best small fairs in eastern Montana.

PHOTO CREDITS:  1962 carnival photo by Bruce Blakesley