LOVINGTON, N.M. – There are many reasons why the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is recognized as one of the biggest and best events in ProRodeo.
From hospitality to award-winning livestock to an amazing purse, the regional exposition is home to a highly touted event among the top professionals in the game. This year’s rodeo is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5-Saturday, Aug. 8, at Jake McClure Arena on the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington.
“There are fans that don’t get to see rodeo outside Lovington, but we’re trying to put together a rodeo they’d want to see anywhere,” said Greg Massey, chairman of the rodeo committee. “We strive to put together a National Finals Rodeo experience for them right here at home. I think we’ve been able to do that.”
Indeed. Each of the past two seasons, the Lea County Fair and Rodeo has been a top-five finalist for the Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Annually the rodeo features the numerous world champions and regular NFR qualifiers all vying for a shot at the coveted championship.
Just look at the reigning Lovington champions as proof: 21-time world titlist Trevor Brazile earned the steer roping crown en route to his fifth steer roping gold buckle; four-time world champ J.W. Harris won the bull riding title; three-time year-end winner Tuf Cooper won the tie-down roping crown; 10-time NFR qualifier Cody DeMoss won saddle bronc riding; three-time finalist J.R. Vezain earned the bareback riding championship; and steer wrestler Ty Erickson added the title en route to his first NFR qualification.
“Pete Carr’s been around our rodeo long enough that people know his stock, and I think the contestants look at that a lot when they enter,” Massey said. “I think there’s a friendliness to the event with what we do for the contestants.
“We have the schedule and the format so they can compete here and still be able to make it to all those other big-money events that same week.”
Barrel racers and roughstock cowboys – those who ride bucking horses and bulls – all compete in one go-round, while other timed-event contestants compete in two rounds. Steer wrestlers, team ropers and tie-down ropers will compete in the first round during their given day, with the top performers returning to compete in the evening performances for the second round; the rest will run in Round 2 during the afternoon performance.
The format allows for the cream of the crop to play the game in front of some of the most knowledgeable fans in the game and others who are in Lovington to take in all the entertainment possible through the fair.
Many of the top contestants have ties to Lea County, including team ropers Jim Ross Cooper and Jake Cooper of Monument, both of whom are among the top cowboys in their given disciplines; tie-down roper Clint Cooper, a five-time NFR qualifier who grew up in Lovington; Marty Jones, a 16-time finalist, in both tie-down and steer roping, from Hobbs; and bareback rider Luke Creasy, an Alberta-born bareback rider who is trying to secure his first berth to the finals while living in Lovington.
“In talking to the cowboys during the NFR, the one thing I hear across the board is they like the atmosphere here in Lea County,” said Corey Helton, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “They feel like we do everything we can to accommodate them. That’s got to be one common denominator for our rodeo.”
Hundreds of ProRodeo’s greatest stars make their way to Lea County every August for a lot of reasons. The fans reap the rewards.