County fairs are, by definition, a celebration of all that is small-town Americana, a true community caucus over corn dogs, cotton candy and carnival rides.
In Wyoming, all 23 counties hold a fair, most at the end of July or beginning of August. They celebrate everything equine, swine and fried food.
Tractor pulls, demolition derbies and country music concerts close out days filled with face-painted kiddos pinballing from one amusement ride to the next. County fairs in Wyoming are as country as a hulled-out Ford Fairlane on cement blocks rusting in the front yard.
But one fair in particular is like no other in the state for its people watching alone. The Teton County Fair just wrapped its 67th annual showing with a celebration of all things ag and western heritage. And Hollywood glitz.
Can the annual fiddle contest hold a candle to Motley Crue’s bass player in the audience? What happens when an Indiana Jones impersonator is outdone by the iconic real deal? And what if the clown on stilts twisting balloons into funny animals is upstaged by an Academy Award-winning actress?
This county fair hits different. It’s an A-lister’s soiree at the Tilt-a-Whirl.
At first glance, the Teton County Fair looks like any of the other two dozen or so held every summer across the state. Pickups and horse trailers practically outnumber people milling about the grounds at any given time.
But in chic Jackson, county seat of Teton and home to the annual fair, numerous star personalities make their part-time residence in the valley. Several have been known to make the scene over at, say, the 4-H rabbit exhibit. Luminaries are people too.
Fair royalty in Teton doesn’t end with the sash-wearing queens and princesses court parading across the rodeo arena. Check the stands. Scan the grounds. You just might see a celeb or two enjoying all-you-can-ride family night or the Lions Club free pancake breakfast.
“It seems like one turns up every year,” said fair manager Rachel Grimes. “Last year, Kendall Jenner phoned ahead to let us know she would be coming to the fair rodeo one night. She sat on our VIP deck with a bodyguard and they had a great time.”
Motley Crue Who?
Newcomer to the area, Nikki Sixx dropped by the most recent county fair in Jackson. Sixx, his wife Courtney and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter Ruby made a visit to the 10-day event a few weeks ago.
Sixx, who actually grew up in nearby Jerome, Idaho, is the bass-wielding member of Motley Crue. The iconic heavy metal hairband of the ’80s is still touring. But when not on the road, Sixx and fam have taken, 100%, to the laidback western Wyoming lifestyle.
Also an amateur photographer, Sixx toted his Leica SL2 along to the fair and captured dozens of impressive shots of the rodeo, the figure 8 race and the carnival rides — Ruby making an adorable model for many.
“Rodeo and the fair rolling into town this week so there’s a million great opportunities for storytelling coming up,” Sixx posted on Facebook.
Grimes said she was made aware of Sixx and his attendance at the fair.
“He is good friends with one of our fair board members, so we set him up,” Grimes said.
The Teton County Fair Facebook page shared Sixx’s photos, stating, “We hope you and Ruby had a blast, Nikki Sixx!”
The world-renowned metal musician may not have exactly blended in with the crowd, but he is certainly inked up enough to be mistaken for a carnie.
Sixx appears to be living his best life right now. Twenty-two years clean and sober, and settled down with family in Jackson. In fact, he said as much recently, stating, “Just gotta say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”
An interesting fan comment on Sixx’s Facebook page brought up a pertinent question that gets at the heart of why so many people of fame seem to enjoy spending time in Jackson.
“I can’t help but wonder, do people give you peace and distance when you go out for fun like this? I certainly hope so,” asked Reona Damrell.
“Wondered the same thing. Maybe people have more respect in rural Wyoming?” Sonja Scott chimed in.
Matthew Bowers also wanted to know, “How can you walk two steps without 10 people asking you for an autograph and a picture? Must be maddening.”
Whether it’s Sixx, Harrison Ford or Sandra Bullock — all of whom spend significant time in Jackson Hole where they own homes — celebs are pretty much left unbothered.
Say what you will about the county politically being a blue island in a sea of red, or the old line: Jackson Hole is just a short drive from Wyoming, folks in Teton County subscribe wholeheartedly to the unofficial Cowboy State credo “Live and Let Live.”
Gender-bender Jeffree Star is accepted and unhassled by the Casper community. Kanye West ruffled feathers in the Cody area, but folks there were relatively ready to let him prove himself until he split.
And in Jackson, A-listers like Ford and Bullock are seen regularly at local restaurants, grocery stores or out and about. Locals barely bat an eye.
Jet-setters, uber-wealthy CEOs and even true royalty descends on Jackson regularly. Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and son Archie enjoyed the Fourth of July parade in Jackson last year. British socialite Pippa Middleton also has been spotted often.
Private jet air traffic easily outpaces commercial flights at Jackson Hole Airport. In August 2020, the average amount of time between a charter plane taking off or landing at JH Airport was 12 minutes.
Maybe it’s a combination of Wyoming’s relaxed Western attitude and Jackson’s seen-it-all celebrity stoke, but a big reason why many well-known figures choose to live there — other than the views and the income tax break — is the fact they are left unmolested for the most part.
And for the most part, matinee idols and the like do their part to fit in. Anyone who has ever met Ford out on the town somewhere, for example, says the same thing: He’s just a regular guy. Even the two people Ford rescued on his own dime while flying his own helicopter, on two separate occasions in the early 2000s, said the same.
Ford, and his new wife at the time Calista Flockhart, took in the county fair in 2010 with their son, Liam.
Bullock has also been spotted at the Teton County Fair when not dancing the night away at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (2014 with Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings and friends for her 50th birthday; and 2019 NYE with Jennifer Aniston).
Square Peg, Round Hole
Believe it or not, Jackson is not Hollywood enough for some, though.
Rapper Kanye West and then-wife Kim Kardashian also enjoyed a brief fling with Teton County before their move to Cody. Unlike aforementioned celebs, Ye’s footprint wasn’t nearly as light. By the time he left the Hole, the controversial hip-hop artist ran afoul of the Game and Fish Department and at least two longtime ranchers.
West spent months recording his “Ye” release at a makeshift studio in the posh Amangani in 2018. The ensuing record release party at Diamond Cross Ranch made him persona non grata with owners Grant and Jane Golliher, who were peeved — along with every neighbor within a mile — about the loud, late and rowdy affair.
“No more rappers,” they told The Blast.
Fair Thee Well
Next year’s fair? Teton County fair manager Grimes couldn’t speculate on who it might be. The latest to park their life at a Jackson Hole ranchette or a heavy-hitter fresh off a G6.
One thing’s for sure. The star of the week will still be a blue-ribbon cobbler, a flashy barrel racer or that adorable pigtailed pig wrestling team (someone cue Chris Ledoux’s “County Fair”).
Because in tinseled-up Teton they do it like they do in tiny Niobrara County.
In Wyoming, a fair’s a fair anywhere.