LOVINGTON, N.M. – When Tate Branch opened his vehicle dealership in Hobbs, N.M., a few years ago, he realized there were several gifts that came with it.
“I feel like I’m very, very blessed,” said Branch, owner of Tate Branch Dodge in Hobbs, Tate Branch Autoplex in Carlsbad and Tate Branch Auto Group in Artesia. “I feel like I’m in a position that God has blessed me, and this is one way I could give back.”
The “this” to which Branch referred is the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, a 10-night exposition that takes place Aug. 1-9 at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington. Tate Branch Dodge of Hobbs is the title sponsor for the annual fair and rodeo.
“There is a passion in Lea County for this,” he said. “The fair and rodeo is huge, and I had no idea until six years ago when we opened the dealership in Hobbs. We got involved, and I’ve gotten passionate about rodeo over the last several years.”
That passion is evident in many things Branch and the dealership do. Tate Branch Dodge endorses ProRodeo ropers Clint Cooper, Clif Cooper, Tuf Cooper, Jake Cooper and Jim Ross Cooper – all of whom have ties to Lea County – as well as saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy of Corona, N.M.
But close to home, Branch’s commitment is focused strongly on the fair and rodeo.
“Tate Branch, the owner as well as the dealership, recognizes how valuable the fair and rodeo is to all the people in Lea County and to the surrounding area,” said Lindsay Chism, the marketing director for Tate Branch Dodge. “The fair and rodeo is great entertainment, and it’s great for the families to be excited.
“We want to be able to provide that opportunity year after year. One thing that we could do to benefit the masses the most is helping to bring the fair and rodeo to Lea County.”
Chism has seen the benefit most of her life. She grew up in Lea County and graduated from Hobbs High School. She’s participated in the fair and rodeo as a youngster and continues to enjoy the festivities with her family.
“For me, I think the parade on Wednesday is one of those things you really enjoy because you get to see the energy of all ages,” she said. “You can feel everybody’s excitement as they line all those miles up and down Lovington. I love how many people come out for that and how very uniting it is.
“I think it kicks off the big final four days and gets everybody really excited.”
Branch purchased the Hobbs dealership in 2008. In the years since, he has witnessed that excitement up close and personal.
“We have always believed with the three dealerships that there is an importance to being involved in the community and giving back to the community,” said Branch, who grew up in Carlsbad, N.M. “We are very family oriented and community oriented.”
That attitude is paying off for many southeastern New Mexico residents, especially those who make their way to Lovington every August for the expo.
“I’ve done quite a bit of research on this, and this is the largest county fair in the state of New Mexico,” Branch said. “Every year it seems like it grows. It’s all about the people and the passion they have for it. They plan around that week all year. That’s important to us.”