Small town preps for party celebrating the past
By Hayden Seder
The little spot in the south part of the Wood River Valley that took its name from what the nearest post office was called is now 100 years old, and this town of just over 600 people is going to celebrate.
On Saturday, July 20, 2019, the City of Carey will host what it’s calling a Centennial Celebration. The festivities will last all day and include a car show, parade, luncheon, petting zoo, live music, farmers’ market, rodeo and dance. The weekend will kick off with the ATV Rodeo at 7 p.m. at the Carey rodeo arena on Friday, July 19.
In addition to the day’s official festivities, a volleyball tournament will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Carey City Park. The luncheon will be catered by Bullzz-Eye BBQ and will be $10 per person. The Old-Time Fiddlers will play at 2 p.m. by the pavilion followed by the farmers’ market set up in the same location.
Car show raffles will be at 3 p.m., with awards to follow at 4 p.m. Funky Rodeo will kick off the evening fun at 7 p.m. at the Carey rodeo grounds. The Eldredge Building will have a display set up of “A History of Carey” that will be broken into decades with memories and photos. Heber Kirkland, the first mayor of Carey, will give a talk on the history of the town. A dance in the pavilion will begin at 9 p.m.
Founded in 1919 by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Carey is located in Blaine County at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and U.S. Highways 26 and 93. As of 2017, the population was 615.
The town was named after Thomas Carey Stanford, younger brother of Cyrus Joseph Stanford, the leader of the early settlers. According to The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Carey was actually the post office name for the settlement. While the name of the Ward was Blaine (named in honor of the late James G. Blaine, a high-profile American statesman), the name Carey was used to honor the early founders of the area. Roughly 75 percent of the population still today is Mormon.
The area is primarily agricultural, but is also home to the Blaine County Fairgrounds and the annual Blaine County Fair, a popular multi-day event that includes a rodeo and 4-H competition. The city sits just west of Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. Also nearby are Carey Lake, Silver Creek and the Little Wood River.
Population levels were higher in the early 1900s but the Great Depression hit the area hard and population levels have never quite recovered, though it has gotten much closer in the last several decades as Carey turned into an affordable area to live for commuters working in the Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley areas.
Carey Mayor Randy Patterson has been mayor for 12 years and has lived in Carey since the fourth grade. His grandparents and great-grandparents lived here, giving Patterson the unique perspective to see how the town of Carey has—or hasn’t—changed over his lifetime.
“There’s more houses but it’s still a quiet community and a really good family town,” Patterson said. “For active people, there’s hunting and fishing and biking and boating. It’s what you think of when you think of old, small-town America; that’s us.”