Cautious, but excited: Colorado State Fair team plans full entertainment slate for 2021

Heather Willard
The Pueblo Chieftain
Colorado State Fair officials are hoping to preserve some portion of the popular Crabtree Amusements carnival for the 2020 expo.

Plans are heating up for the 2021 Colorado State Fair as many of the entertainment acts originally slated for 2020 have agreed to perform this summer instead.

One such act is Nelly, an American rapper known for songs such as "Ride Wit Me" and "Hot in Herre,"  who was originally scheduled to perform at the fair in 2020, but due to the pandemic the artist agreed to shift the show to the 2021 fair.

The musician will perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 if COVID-19 case count trends continue to indicate a low chance for transmission between individuals, even in an outdoor setting.

Tickets for the rapper's show are selling quickly; in fact, Colorado State Fair General Manager Scott Stoller estimated that tickets for the concerts, not just Nelly's, will reach the same sale amounts for a typical first week of July by the middle of May.

"I don't know if it's the amazing events that we are offering, or if it's a hunger for concerts, but our concert tickets are outpacing 2019 and 2018 by a major clip," he said. "We're looking at surpassing where we were by July 1 by next week. So there's definitely an interest in concerts right now."

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George Thorogood is also slated to perform during the fair, with his concert scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 2. The rock and country star is known for hits such as "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," "Bad to the Bone"  and "Move It On Over" — most of which he released with his band, The Destroyers. 

Thorogood released his first solo album in 2017, titled "Party of One."

Other announced entertainment artists of the 2021 State Fair include country star Jon Pardi.

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Rapper Nelly is scheduled to perform at the Colorado State Fair at 7 p.m. Sept 4.

2020 fair events shifted to 2021 due to pandemic concerns

Several other artists also opted for the offer of shifting their concerts from 2020 to 2021's fair, as no concerts were held during the 2020 fair. However, many entertainers have not been announced yet and Stoller said the community should keep an eye on the Colorado State Fair website and social media pages for further acts that he expects to be announced.

"The concert lineup that you see is the concert lineup that we had last year, we were fortunate in that we were able to get those entertainers to confirm for the following year because we had to cancel last year," Stoller said. "People didn't know we had those acts confirmed, because we hadn't announced our acts, because we were being very, very cautious last year."

Stoller said the fair planning team's goal is for a full State Fair with no exceptions, if public health guidelines allow and case amounts in Southern Colorado stay low and vaccination rates rise.

"As we get further into June and July, if it's not safe to go forward we're going to make changes based on that information to the event," Stoller said. "Because right now we are four months out, and obviously the trend is good, so we need to be prepared to have a full fair, but the realities in two or three months from now are what are going to dictate things."

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Rodeo nights will also feature concerts

The PRCA Ram Rodeo will be held in the Bud Light Grandstand on Aug. 27, 28 and 29, with unique entertainers set to perform after each round of rodeo fun. 

Diamond Rio will perform following the Sunday rodeo: a first for the fair, and a change that was expected to be introduced during the 2020 fair.

The band debuted in 1991 with the single “Meet in the Middle,” which made Diamond Rio the first ever act to send a debut single to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Diamond Rio charted 32 more singles between then and 2006, including four more that reached No. 1: “How Your Love Makes Me Feel,”  “One More Day,” “Beautiful Mess”  and “I Believe."

A rising star is set to perform Friday following the rodeo. Casey Donahew has charted his last four albums in the Billboard U.S. Country Top 10, and his album "All Night Party" reached third on the U.S. Billboard Country Chart in August 2019.

Dustin Lynch will round out the three nights of rodeo, set to perform on Saturday night. The country star's most recent album, "Tullahoma," was released January 2020.

The fair last year was stripped down, offering a drive-through midway for those seeking fair food, and a slopper eating contest that was sanctioned by Major League Eating — an event that is partnered with the Pueblo Chile Growers' Association and Colorado Proud.

Stoller noted that an act has not yet been confirmed for the last Sunday of the fair, but hopes to announce an act in the upcoming months.

"I will say based on current data as it holds, we're feeling pretty confident about the outdoor events," he said. "The indoor events we're a little more cautious on, and as we get closer to reaching 50% of sales, we may look at pausing sales to ensure we don't go over capacity."

Stoller noted that ticket sales are currently all virtual through coloradostatefair.com, but the fair team hopes to open the box office within the next month.

He said that anyone who is holding off on purchasing tickets will be given opportunities for refunds if events are canceled, or will be given opportunities for partial refunds if the events' date or venues change and prevents the individual from attending.

The light-splattered and scent-strewn midway is also planned to continue, as it will be outdoors. The event planners hope no changes to outdoor activity will be announced prior to the end of August, allowing for fair-goers to enjoy the raucous fun of carnival rides and food.

Chieftain reporter Heather Willard can be reached via email at hwillard@gannett.com or on Twitter: @HeatherDWrites.