LOVINGTON, N.M. – Over the years, the Lea County Fair and Rodeo has been recognized for its firepower when it comes to outstanding concerts.
There are six nights of musical entertainment on the main stage, and the concerts offer the kind of variety needed in a diverse region like southeastern New Mexico. Fans of all types make their way to Lovington each year to experience concerts that may only be seen in larger communities most of the time.
“We’ve set up some of our nights specifically to meet with the needs of the people from around here,” said Larry Wheeler, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board, which organizes the annual exposition, set for July 30-Aug. 8 at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington. “We kick off the fair honoring the Hispanic population, and I think the acts we have for that will really draw the crowds.”
Bronco and Erick Massore will open the concert series on Friday, July 30, during the Hispanic Heritage Celebration. The fair board noticed a few years ago how big of a draw they get when they bring popular Hispanic acts to town.
Once the PRCA rodeo kicks off with its Lea County Xtreme Bulls on Tuesday, Aug. 3, the concerts kick up again. Mike Ryan will follow the bull riding, sharing his Texas Country hits with the crowds that have come to love that genre of music. Ryan’s “Dancing All Around It” hit No. 1 in 2014 and was name the Single of the Year by Texas Music Pickers.
Zach Williams will be the featured act during Faith and Family Night on Wednesday, Aug. 4. He has been one of the contemporary Christian music scene’s leading artists for several years, and he has been nominated for two GRAMMYs.
Clay Walker will bring his decades of experience and a showman’s mentality to stage. His vocals provide a unique sound that identifies him even before the chorus. He will take the stage Thursday, Aug. 5, and will likely share some of his 11 No. 1 songs.
“I’m pretty excited about that one,” Wheeler said. “Thursday has historically been a slow night for the fair, and we talked about doing away with the Thursday concerts because of that. In 2019, we brought in Cody Johnson for that Thursday night, and that was really big. I think we can have a similar type crowd this year with Clay.”
Confederate Railroad, whose top 10 songs “Queen of Memphis,” “Jesus and Momma” and “Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind,” will share the stage with Exile on Friday, Aug. 6. The fair and rodeo will close with a two-part concert with Gary Allan on Saturday, Aug. 7.
Exile, now in its 58th year of producing music, is still on tour. The band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist, J.P. Pennington, has been with Exile since 1963, and he’s still writing music. He actually wrote 42 songs during COVID-19. Allan has had four No. 1s: “Man to Man” and “Tough Little Boys” in 2003; “Nothing On but the Radio” in 2004; and “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” in 2013.
“I think we have some great acts,” Wheeler said. “To me, there’s a little bit of something for everybody. They’re all different styles, and I think they’ll all reach people from around here.”