In New Mexico, July marks the beginning of a series of special events we call fairs!
Whether it is a county or state fair, New Mexicans love to gather and view the wonderful items, activities and foods that demonstrate our community’s talents. Lasting all the way to October, our state’s fairs provide great entertainment and opportunities for our community, especially our youth.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a county fair as, “a fair usually held annually at a set location in a county especially to exhibit local agricultural products and livestock.” This is a key component to understanding the value and impact a fair can have on the community hosting the event.
The first fair to be hosted in New Mexico was in 1881 and was classified as a Territorial Fair according to the Albuquerque Historical Society. While the first event was held a long time ago, fairs continue to represent the advancements in agriculture and allow community members to display their creative talents in agriculture, consumer sciences and art.
While many fairgoers attend for entertainment, there is an even deeper representation of all of the events held. The music and food keep us thrilled, amused and full, but one of the main components to fair participants is the infectious competitive nature of shows and exhibits.
Rodeos, livestock shows and indoor exhibits offer this competitive aspect and allow community members and youth to display their skills learned and practiced throughout the hot New Mexican summer months. Healthy competition is a foundation to the show’s and participant’s success.
Who are these participants? Fairs allow community members to submit their exhibits for judging, however the youth participants are a large part of the fair shows. 4-H and FFA members compete within these livestock and indoor shows to win ribbons, become eligible to participate in livestock sales and even receive scholarships.
4-H and FFA members work on their projects all summer, with many of the livestock efforts occurring months before the summer hits. So, how does this impact their lives? These youth programs offer individuals a unique education program by teaching important life skills.
The Journal of Youth Development reported a study on 4-H and FFA members asking what their involvement in their livestock projects had taught them. The top three responses were to accept responsibility for doing a job, to value the contributions of others, and to be friends with people who are different than me.
These statements are highly impactful to the future of our youth. It may seem as though fair participants are there for the fun and competition of all the shows and events, but we must remember the work and efforts the participants have endured and learned throughout the completion of their projects and the life-long benefit of participating in the fair’s activities.
This summer, many fairs have been canceled due to the pandemic, and our communities are saddened for the loss of a highly anticipated source of entertainment and competition. While this news is devastating to 4-H and FFA members, many fairs have chosen to still have competitions, whether they are restricted in numbers or converted to a virtual nature.
Communities have recognized fair events are not just for the entertainment aspect, but give our youth organizations and communities an outlet to spotlight their talents. These changes show a dedication to these individuals who have devoted their summer to learning.
Once fairs have safely returned, we will all have a newfound appreciation for all of the effort and importance a single event can make to our communities and state.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
• Home-school Extension Videos: Videos or presentations can be requested for home-schooling families for science and agriculture. A list of topics being offered for the fall semester are available upon request. Contact Sierra Cain at [email protected] for more information.
• Visit NMSU Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service (facebook.com/NMSUValenciaCES/) Facebook page for upcoming programs, creative recipes, health tips and fun activities.
If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.
Sierra Cain, guest columnist
Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.