LOVINGTON, N.M. – Everybody needs a reason to celebrate.
Whether you run a ranch near Jal or work 9 to 5 for a business in Hobbs, there’s a need to get away from the grind, spend time with friends and honor one another together.
The Lea County Commission knows that as well as anyone, which is why the governing body puts in the time and money to fund the annual Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for Aug. 2-10 in Lovington.
“Our fair and rodeo is a quality-of-life deal for the county,” said Dale Dunlap, now in his fifth year on the commission. “It brings in outside people and brings in a lot of contestants and vendors. It provides a lot of economic impact to Lea County.
“It’s something we’ve always done, and it’s always something that keeps getting bigger and better.”
How much does the county put toward the annual exposition?
The event boasts of six outstanding concerts, including headliners like Sara Evans and Josh Turner; a PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour event; a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour rodeo with elite rodeo stars and world-class animal athletes; a respected livestock show; and a host of other activities for patrons of any age.
Oh, and the admission price is just $7.
“We want to show the people that we’re interested in giving them entertainment,” said Dunlap, who previously had spent six years on the Lea County Fair Board. “We want to give back to the public and show them that we spend their tax dollars wisely.”
Dunlap moved to Lea County with his family at the age of 1. In the mid-1980s, he developed D&T Backhoe Inc., and continues to run it today. He said his service on the commission is his way of representing his community.
“I sought out to represent the whole county,” he said in explaining why he’s serves. “There were some things that I wanted to voice my opinion on, and the best way to do that was to run for office. I enjoy trying to make things happen and trying to make our county a better place to stay.”
One of those things is tying all the strings together to make the fair and rodeo a special event for the county’s 65,000-plus residents.
“Our commission is behind us 100 percent,” said Dean Jackson, a member of the fair board. “They underwrite this whole thing. We’re all on budgets, but they are very generous with the budget they provide us. When you look at the lineup we have at our fair, it’s unreal.
“There aren’t too many places that can do this.”
The fair has been recognized statewide as one of the best in New Mexico, and others in the region have taken note, too. None of it is possible without the county’s support.
“We’ve been blessed that we’ve had commissioners that understand about our fair and rodeo,” Jackson said. “They’ve had kids involved, and the county does a great job of taking care of this place. We have a facility that is awesome.”
Dunlap said he enjoys many of the events that take place during the expo, but he holds a special fondness to one major aspect.
“The thing I really enjoy is the sale,” he said. “If you’re a member of the fair board and you’ve put in more than 100 hours that week alone, when the sale comes, you know that’s what it’s all about.
“Our sale teaches the young folks the responsibility and that it could pay off in the long run. You see business owners and others that live in the county, and they all come out and support it hard, and they never look back. That tells a youngster we’re behind you. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”