Cookoffs adding a new flavor to Lea County Fair & Rodeo

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LOVINGTON, N.M. – Ice cream might just be the ideal treat on a hot August day in southeastern New Mexico.

The right ice cream recipe might receive special treatment, as in a grand championship at this year’s Lea County Fair and Rodeo. The Lea County Extension is conducting four cookoffs in an effort to expand opportunities and entertainment for residents who can make great dishes in ice cream, chocolate, pecans and salsa.

“We’re trying to add some things to draw people to our Yucca Building, which is for creative arts,” said Robin Mack-Haynes, the Lea County Extension home economist. “We tried to pick things that people would like to see and also pick some things that are unique to our area. That’s where the pecan and salsa came in.”

The Yucca Building is in the fair’s southeastern corner and features many of the crafts and projects. It’s where adults show off things like their quilts, canned goods and gardening skills, while the youth will display the finished pieces to their yearly projects. The air conditioned building is also a nice retreat from the August heat.

“The departments I work in are more of the creative side,” Mack-Haynes said. Without the livestock end and the creative arts end, a fair wouldn’t exist. Years ago, men would come show their livestock, and women would show their house wares.”

Anyone from Lea County can enter at the time of the cookoff. Once the call for entries begins, the judging will take place 30 minutes later. The competition begins with the ice cream cookoff, with registration at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, in the Yucca Building. The judging will then begin at 6 p.m.

The pecan cookoff will begin at noon Friday, Aug. 12, followed by the chocolate cookoff at 12:30 p.m. The salsa cookoff closes the first year of competition at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13.

“We use the kitchen throughout the year,” Mack-Haynes said. “The cookoff will be in the kitchen area, but they aren’t preparing any of the food on site. The food has to be totally prepared to present to the judge. The judge will select the winners based solely on presentation and taste. Everyone will be required to turn in a recipe with their product along with a procedure.”

Anyone interested in participating in multiple cookoffs might be eligible for a cash prize. The Lea County Fair Trifecta is open to entrants who participate in at least three of the four cookoffs. At each cookoff, participants will receive points. The person with the most points in the trifecta will earn a $150 check.

“The cookoffs are something new, and we’re looking forward to it,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “Our home economist came to the board and said she’d like to try it because she’d had some requests. In years past, we had a cookie jar contest, and that’s been a big hit. We’re just expanding on that and trying to get more people involved. I think it will be a hit.”


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