LOVINGTON, N.M. – Producers of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo aren’t ones rest on their laurels.
The annual rodeo has been a big-time draw for fans in southeastern New Mexico, featuring the very best the sport has to offer, like great animal athletes, from the two-time tie-down roping horse of the year, Sweetness, owned by Lovington High School graduate Clint Cooper, to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo-caliber livestock from Dallas-based Carr Pro Rodeo.
But the Lea County Fair Board and its rodeo committee volunteers are doing even more to make it even better, from providing more for the contestants to setting up an improved sound system to adding another great performance to an already action-packed entertainment package. The rodeo is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8-Saturday, Aug. 11 at Jake McClure Arena, but this year it will include the Lea County Xtreme Bulls tour, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7.
“We’ve put in a lot of things to make our rodeo a better experience for everyone involved,” said Greg Massey, chairman of the rodeo committee. “We want the contestants to talk about our rodeo all year long, but that’s just part of it. We want our fans talking about the rodeo, too.”
Everyone is getting that kind of experience. Last year’s fair attendance was a record 97,928, and the rodeo featured many of the top 15 contestants in each event who went on to qualify for the 2011 NFR. Part of the draw for ProRodeo’s elite is the large purse that’s available, but also because the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is part of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour.
“That’s helped us in a lot of ways, because we have the back-to-back format where the contestants can come to town, run in both go-rounds in the same day, then go on to the next rodeo,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the fair board. “Since we’ve started this, we’ve had more of the contestants wanting to be here.”
In each of the timed events, steer ropers, steer wrestlers, tie-down ropers and team ropers will compete in the first round in the afternoon. The cowboys with the best times in each event will return for the performances each evening, while the others will make their second-round runs that same afternoon.
“We’ve set it up in the afternoon to really help those guys that are traveling,” Massey said. “We’ll have some that will come in from Sikeston (Mo.).”
It’ll take contestants about 15 hours to get from the eastern Missouri community to Lovington, so they need as much time as possible just to make the trek. That’s one reason why the committee has made the move for the afternoon competition.
“There are a lot of rodeos that weekend,” Massey said. “There aren’t many that are in our area; with today’s economy, they’re trying to travel as few a distance as possible, so we want them to be able to make it here and have a chance to win our fair and rodeo.”
A key drawing card for saddle bronc riders, bareback riders and bull riders is that Carr is the primary stock contractor, now in his sixth year in Lovington.
“Pete Carr is at the top of his game,” Massey said. “I don’t understand why he doesn’t win stock contractor of the year. He has outstanding stock, and he wants it to be the very best it can be
“I think we’re very fortunate to have Pete at our rodeo.”