LOVINGTON, N.M. – With nearly 98,000 people walking through the gates at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo last year, organizers realized one thing.
“We learned a lot last year, but we also realize we’ve got a pretty good group of volunteers helping us every year,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “There simply is no way we could put on an event like this without volunteers.”
Jackson is the first to admit that the annual exposition is benefited greatly by county staff members, who take care of the grounds all year long and who handle a lot of the finer details. It all comes together for 10 days of excitement in southeast New Mexico from Aug. 3-11.
“It’s really a blessing to have the county staff,” he said. “We are very lucky that we have that, but without our volunteers, it just doesn’t happen. Our rodeo committee is very small, only about six members, and I’d like to see more people involved in that aspect of our event.
“But as far as the fair side, it’s almost all volunteers. We have the superintendents helping with the exhibits, and Farm Bureau comes in and cooks on Tuesday. Hi-Pro comes in and feeds the kids for the awards banquet on Friday night.”
It takes a small army just to produce the annual livestock sale, much less all the other aspects of handling so many exhibits. From goats to horses to quilts and foods, the people who donate their time make the schedule flow.
“We have a great staff, and they work very hard,” Jackson said. “But they can’t do it all. Our fair board is all volunteer, and really, it’s my way of being active in the community. My kids showed, and when they finished, I still wanted to be involved.”
Greg Massey, the chairman of the rodeo committee, said the volunteer force is a key ingredient into the success of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8-Saturday, Aug. 11 at Jake McClure Arena.
“You just can’t get it all put together without the volunteers,” Massey said. “They’re vital to the production of our fair and rodeo. For me, it’s exciting to be part of something you’ve grown up with. I grew up with this fair and rodeo, and I’m proud to be associated with it.”
The dedication in Lea County is being felt all across the region. The core group of volunteers with the rodeo side of the event was recognized as the Committee of the Year in the PRCA’s Turquoise Circuit, the regional area that is made up of rodeos across New Mexico and Arizona.
That’s a ringing endorsement for one of the biggest events in the Land of Enchantment, which is part of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour and is a major stop among ProRodeo’s top contenders.
“To me, it says we’ve got an outstanding group of volunteers that puts on one heck of a rodeo,” Massey said. “To be voted No. 1 by the other committees and contestants in this circuit tells us we’re doing something right.”