Did you know that the Mesa County Fairgrounds at Veteran’s Memorial Park were once known as Uranium Downs? People who attended horse races, motocross, WWF style “wrestling,” and other events back in the day might remember this nod to Mesa County’s mining (and radioactive) legacy.
The Mesa County Fairgrounds opened in their current location in Orchard Mesa sometime after 1925. Prior to that time, the fairgrounds were at what is now Lincoln Park. There, people saw early flight demonstrations, rodeos, baseball games, and, of course, the county fair.
It was common for members of the Ute Uncompahgre band to camp in the fairgrounds during the fair. Horseracing was very popular, and fencing around the track went down the middle of what is now Gunnison Avenue. The entrance to the fairgrounds was near the Lincoln Park Barn, an historic building that survives.
The City of Grand Junction purchased the fairgrounds from Mesa County in 1917 and renamed the land Lincoln Park, but the park continued to house the fairgrounds. When construction on the neighborhood known as Lincoln Park Addition began in 1925, Gunnison Avenue was extended from 12th Street east. With the end of apple farming and the building of homes and businesses along North Avenue, the park was too hemmed in by development to support large, agricultural events. The fairgrounds moved to Orchard Mesa shortly after.
But the Mesa County Fairgrounds had an even earlier location. In his research on the history of the Little Book Cliff Railway, Lyn Lampert found that its route took passengers past what were then the fairgrounds. In fact, during the Mesa County Fair of 1890, five or six trains a day took people from the railway’s Grand Junction depot to the fairgrounds, which were located north of the tracks along what is now Bookcliff Avenue (between 7th Street and Bookcliff Drive). For more information about the fairgrounds and other aspects of Mesa County history, visit the Mesa County Oral History Project.