LOVINGTON, N.M. – The Lea County Fair and Rodeo will continue to be a big part of Kenyon Burns’ life for years to come.
“I have celebrated my birthday at the fair for the last 40 years,” said Burns, who will turn 41 during this year’s exposition.
Now a member of the Lea County Fair Board, his birthday party will be a bit different. Not only does he help with the planning and preparation of the annual expo, he is the chairman of the board’s rodeo committee.
Like most that grew up in this town of nearly 12,000 people, Burns knows rodeo. He has been part of the sport most of his life, competing at his first rodeo at the age of 6. He carried that through various levels and has battled the best in the business as a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In fact, he’s a two-time qualifier to the National Finals Steer Roping.
It is the task of the rodeo committee to organize and prepare all aspects of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10-Saturday, Aug. 13, at Jake McClure Arena. That also includes the Lea County Xtreme Bulls, which takes place Tuesday, Aug. 9.
“I was appointed to the fair board last year,” said Burns, owner of Burns Resources LLC. “I served on the rodeo committee, and I offered a little feedback about the rodeo. I can give them an opinion from the cowboy’s point of view.
“You have to have cowboys to put on a rodeo, so I think it’s valuable to have that in the mix.”
Now he owns the presiding voice within the group. Though there are aspects that can be a bit overwhelming, Burns knows his task is to continue the greatness of Lovington’s rodeo that has been established over the years – not only is it historic, but it has been recognized as one of the top rodeos in the PRCA for several year with nominations for Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year.
“We’ve had lots of really good people make this rodeo what it is today,” he said. “I’m likening this experience to roping in the short round at a rodeo somewhere. I want to back into the (roping) box saying, ‘There are 11 other ropers here today, and I’m going to kick their butts.’ ”
That winning attitude is part of what makes the Lea County Fair and Rodeo a world-class event.
“Kenyon has done a real good job in his role,” said Corey Helton, the fair board’s chairman. “He stepped in and made some changes to the slack time that I think will be pretty good. That’s the biggest committee on the fair board. That’s one of the biggest responsibilities. As the rodeo chairman, that’s a big set of shoes to fill.”
There are a lot of big shoes filled by volunteers.
“This fair and rodeo wouldn’t exist without the volunteers,” Helton said, pointing out that a dedication will take place during part of the rodeo. “Some of these volunteers that you see in the livestock barn have been here for years. Year after year, they are volunteering their time to guide and lead these kids and get them where they need to be.
“We owe everything to the volunteers, and it’s about time they get recognized for that.”
Though he has been a volunteer for a short time, Burns has seen first-hand the importance. As a fairgoer and contestant, he has reaped the rewards of many people’s labor.
“The volunteers care, and they’re going to pour their lives into it,” Burns said. “This is their life. They take their vacation during the week to make it as good is it can be.”
That dedication pays off for tens of thousands of fairgoers each year.