LOVINGTON, N.M. – There aren’t many places where a person can watch pigs race, be enthralled by magic and experience the comedy and talent of a ventriloquist.
There are even fewer places where they can do that all for just $6.
But that’s the reality of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, which will have daily entertainers from 5 p.m. to closing every night of the fair, from Aug. 3-11. This year’s lineup includes ventriloquist Kevin Johnson, Robert Smith of Street Magic Live and the Ham Bone Express Pig Races.
“We try to find the things that will please the crowds,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board.
Ham Bone Express is operated by the Borger family, and they bring their action and comedy show to Lovington from northwest Arkansas. It’s funny, fun to watch and fast-paced, and the Borgers claim to have “The Swiftest Swine Off the Line.” It has four races with four pigs in each race, and the master of ceremonies keeps the crowd involved by assigning cheering sections, with each section having a designated “rooter,” or cheerleader.
The special cheerleader of the winning pig is awarded a prize at the end of each race, while the winning animal receives a treat.
“They loved the pig races last year, so we wanted to bring that back this year,” Jackson said.
While most acts focus on performance, Smith puts his focus squarely on the audience and the relationship he builds with the people in the crowd.
“For other magicians, it’s all about the trick,” said Smith, who has a bachelor’s degree in communication from Eastern New Mexico State University. “They just ramble until they get to the ‘ta-da’ moment. That’s why there are so many bad magicians out there, because they worry about the trick and not about the people in their audience.”
That’s the flavor he brings to Lea County, and that’s why Smith’s family-friendly act has been celebrated at Walt Disney World Resort, Sea World of Orlando (Fla.) and the New Mexico State Fair, just to name a few.
Johnson, who started ventriloquism at age 9, has a pretty good pedigree, too. He was self-taught, but he was drawn to entertaining quite naturally – his grandfather, Harley Noles, performed magic shows throughout Colorado and offered a spot in his lineup should Johnson develop his act well enough.
When Johnson was 13, he opened for his grandfather, performing for five minutes with a wooden puppet that his grandfather made him. Since then, he has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “America’s Got Talent.”
The fair begins its 10 days of entertainment with a show from country artist Easton Corbin beginning about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4. It is part of a sponsorship appreciation program.
“We’re really looking forward to that and giving our sponsors something special,” Jackson said. “The public is welcome to join us for the concert, which is a great kick off to this year’s fair.”
When it all comes together, it’s just another reason why the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is one of the most happening places to be in New Mexico each summer. Of course, great entertainment at a great price always is attractive.