Despite coronavirus restrictions causing the cancellation of the Valencia County Fair in its traditional form this year, the fair was still able to put on its animal shows, spread across the week.
Among the people instrumental in ensuring local children were able to show was Lincoln Hill, who is the board president of the Valencia County Fair Board.
Hill, who lives in Jarales and works as a truck driver, has been on the board for about nine years. Currently, he serves as the president of the board, which has 17 members.
“We didn’t have a board meeting until June because we didn’t know the unknown,” Hill said. “We didn’t think (the pandemic) was going to last this long to be quite honest with you, so we kept canceling. Finally in June, we decided we needed to call a meeting and make some decisions about what we were going to do.”
When it became apparent they would have to cancel the fair, he made it a priority to ensure that the children still had an opportunity to show the animals they had been preparing all year long.
Traditionally, the fair is open to the public and features a carnival, exhibits, live music, 4-H shows and runs through Saturday night. Everything — except for the livestock shows — was canceled.
One of the main reasons is the costs that goes into raising an animal for show.
“Show feed is a lot more expensive than regular feed. You can go across the road and buy a bag of sweet feed for like $11, $12 bucks, but you go buy show feed, your show feed is going to be anywhere from $20-$30 bucks a sack. So these kids, these parents needed an answer.”
Ahead of the meeting, Hill reached out to several county fairs to see what their plans were for the year and how they would approach it.
“They all had some ideas; I put them together for a plan for us, and I presented it at the June meeting and the board liked it and we went ahead with it,” he said.
When Hill was recruited to join the fair board, the call came initially for his wife, Tarla, who had too much on her plate at the time.
“A couple guys I knew who were on the board at the time reached out to my wife and asked her to join the board,” Hill said. “She asked me and I told her ‘no.’ I said ‘you’re way too busy,’ she’s a full-time teacher up at the high school and back then we were involved with junior wrestling; she was a team mom, I was a coach.
“She was a co 4-H leader and she was president of the teacher’s union. I told her, ‘No, you ain’t got time.’ So then they turned and asked me and I was like, ‘I guess, I’d never really thought about it.’”
After the board met in June, Hill promised some parents and their children the fair board would give them a chance to show; something he wanted to make good on.
“We had some plans in place,” he said. “I felt good about it, I felt like under the current conditions, we could do it safely and still be able to provide an opportunity for the youth of our county to show.”
Many county fairs, including in Bernalillo County, opted to do a virtual showing for their livestock shows, which was something Hill wanted to avoid if at all possible.
“Virtual is a good option; it’s nice to have, but its just not the same; the experience isn’t the same,” he said.
Brandi Polk, a parent of a child who showed at this year’s fair and who nominated Hill as an Unsung Hero, commended him for the work he did to ensure they could show.
“He worked very hard and kept his cool even while things were difficult,” Polk said. “He was willing to go to any extent to make sure the kids were able to show.”
Even though things were different this year, particularly with the limited socialization brought on by the COVID-19 restrictions, which Hill thought was probably the biggest thing the kids missed compared to a normal year, but Hill said he could tell the kids were happy at the end of the week.
In order to make it work, they showed one species of animal per day, with families bringing their animal in and leaving as soon as their class finished showing, unlike the traditional experience of being at the grounds all day.
As the Valencia County Fair is held on private land, not only is the board responsible for organizing the fair, hiring judges and setting up everything, they are also responsible for all upkeep and any maintenance that needs to be done to the property as well.
Hill detailed some of the big projects that have been undertaken while on the board, such as the installation of a small office for fair board members, as well as replacing the roof on the show ring after it blew off in a microburst a few years ago.
While Hill is the one who drafted the plan, he stressed that the entire board, as well as all of the volunteers, deserve the credit for making the event happen. He also commended the way the community stepped up during the livestock sale at the end of the week.
“This year, we sold 20 animals less than last year, but our sale was actually better than last year,” Hill said. “I think that goes to show the community came out to support; it was a phenomenal sale this year.”
Polk, who was asked to nominate Hill by Sarah Dickson, another member of the board, said in her nomination of him, “Lincoln helped make the livestock shows happen; to me that is a hero who believes in hard work and keeping the way of life for so many families who are engulfed in the agriculture world.”
Already, Hill and the rest of the fair board are beginning to work on their plans for the 2021 Valencia County Fair, and preparing both for a more traditional event and for one potentially impacted by COVID-19.