LOVINGTON, N.M. – Tens of thousands of people come through the gates of the Lea County Fairgrounds every August.
That’s because the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is a big deal. It’s not just folks from the southeastern-most county in New Mexico, but people from all over the Southwest who make the exposition a major entertainment spot.
That kind of popularity means it takes a crew of hundreds of people to make things happen at the fair and rodeo, set for Aug. 3-11 in Lovington. It’s a combination of talented staff members working closely with dedicated volunteers.
“The fair board is made up of volunteers, and every committee is made up of volunteers,” said Kathy Welborn, vice chairwoman of the Lea County Fair Board. “It literally takes hundreds of volunteers to put this fair and rodeo on. We just couldn’t do it without each of them.”
That says so much about the types of people that make Lea County their home. It is a rugged terrain with hard-working individuals who know what it means to put in a day’s labor to make ends meet, then work a little more to help others.
“The rodeo committee is completely volunteer,” said Trey Kerby, a fair board member and chairman of the rodeo committee. “They don’t have to show up, and they work all year. They have a meeting every month. Being on the fair board and being chairman of the committee, I’ve chosen to have that responsibility.
“These guys show up every month, then they show up to the rodeo that week. With slack starting at 11 a.m. and the rodeo starting at 7 pm., it’s all rodeo all the time for five days.”
But it’s not just the rodeo committee that puts in many hours; it’s every committee and sub-committee that is associated with the fair.
“They put their lives on hold to put on this fair and rodeo,” Kerby said. “I really appreciate those guys and gals that have the interest to do this for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo.”
It’s a collaborative effort. Each volunteer understands he or she has the support of the Lea County staff and the Lea County Commission.
“Our commissioners have all worked hard on this,” Welborn said. “Our general manager, Jim Kemp, has worked hard on this. They have made things like this great. We have great cooperation from all around the county.”
Kemp has been part of the operation for many years and took over as GM a little more than a year ago. His hard work is just proof of what it takes to produce a top-flight exposition.
“Jim is an upright and upstanding man,” Welborn said. “He’s done things the right way. He’s for Lea County. He is a very good manager, and people really like him.
“The community is a big part of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. It makes us really proud to have such outstanding commissioners who are for our fair and rodeo and all the things they do for the county.”