LOVINGTON, N.M. – When Corey Helton’s daughter, Megan, was younger, she was actively involved in livestock showing.
Primarily she showed lambs and goats, but she also spent a couple years showing pigs. It takes a lot of work and a lot of care to get animals ready. It also takes a supportive family.
Enter Helton, who went from assisting his daughter to being involved in the community by serving as a volunteer at the annual Lea County Fair and Rodeo, which will take place Aug. 1-9 at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington.
“I’ve been associated with the fair for about 15 years since my daughter started showing,” he said. “I’ve been around the fair in Lovington all these years. It was a way of life. When Megan stopped showing, this was a way to continue to give back. I’m just trying to keep the fair in the direction and the atmosphere that it’s always been.”
His commitment to the exposition is why he is serving as chairman of the fair board.
“The flagship event for the county is the Lea County Fair and Rodeo,” he said. “It’s that one week a year that everybody comes together and catches up. Without the citizens here, I don’t think we could do it. The support from them is unbelievable, especially in terms of the financial support. What other support we need, we seem to have it.”
That’s the way volunteerism works, and it’s a key reason the expo is so successful. It takes a boatload of volunteers to make a community event like that happen, especially in a county that’s as large as Lea County, which sits in New Mexico’s southeastern corner.
“We have our fair board, which is appointed by the county commission,” Helton said. “We have subcommmittees, like the rodeo committee and the entertainment committee. All the fair board members chair at least one of these committees. The fair board meets once a month, then the committees will have their meetings.
“We have a lot of very dedicated people who give a lot of time to make this a great event every year.”
Helton is one of them. As chairman, he attends all the committee gatherings and also meets with the Lea County Commission once or twice a month to keep commissioners updated on the goings-on. It takes great commitment to follow through all these duties.
“When the fair comes and I see all the hard work throughout the year paying off to the caliber of the fair, I think that’s greater than any salary than I could get,” he said. “It’s hard to explain, but when you consider that there are so many things going on in the fair, and I realize I had a hand in this.
“It’s unbelievable seeing it all come together. We have a whole year of work, and it comes together in one week.”
Helton grew up in northwest Wyoming, then joined the military, where he spent eight years in the U.S. Army. He moved to Lea County for a career in law enforcement. He just retired after 20 years with the Hobbs Police Department. His wife, Marilyn, grooms dogs.
Most importantly, they have made their home in this part of the country, and volunteering is a big part of what makes Corey Helton tick.
“Even though my daughter is done showing, I still like the livestock shows,” he said. “That’s the bread and butter of the Lea County Fair. I think the rodeo and the concerts are a plus, but we cannot lose sight of what this fair represents, and that is the hard work that the kids do.”
Helton’s passion for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is evident in just about everything he does. Most importantly, it’s the smile he wears as he walks through the Lea County Fairgrounds in early August.