New Mexico State Fair Memories

As a little girl, one of the many things my family did was visit the New Mexico State Fair. The fair has been marketed as the Biggest Show in New Mexico, which takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September. The New Mexico State Fair has been a fair since 1910, though this is curious, since New Mexico didn’t officially became a state until 1912. “The fair blew into New Mexico in 1854” as a Territorial Fair. From 1854 through 2011, the fair has featured: horses, carriages, and sulkies; gazebos; runners taking their mark; balloons; baseball; vegetable displays; quilts; soldiers; parades; bouquets of white roses; marathons; tightrope walkers; native dancers; cowboys and cowgirls; pageants; adobe making; movie stars and rock stars; horse races; rodeos; hot rods; giant pumpkins; bungee jumping and skycoasters; diving mules; snow cones; and old time photos.

The Twins (Laura and Thomas looking all cute) rest under a beautiful tree with me at the New Mexico State Fair circa 1984. I love this photo- and I miss these days!

In 1968, the Premium List publication formally laid out the official rules and regulations of the fair. The rules included: admissions; exhibitor and concession permits; racing admissions for the grandstand; and rodeo admissions for Tingley Coliseum (oh I do have many memories of many events I attended there over the years). OMG- Fess Parker (the star Daniel Boone from an old TV Series) appeared at the rodeo one weekend. It was interesting to see what New Mexicans were growing locally in 1968 for the agricultural exhibits. Some of the agricultural awards were for the best: beans (of course); eggplant (hum?); lettuce; muskmelon (what the?); onion; peppers (of course); potatoes; pumpkin; squash; and watermelon. In 1968 there was a competition for honey combs, extracted honey, bees and beeswax. At the end of the Premium List, there was information on the villages (to highlight New Mexico’s various cultures) and the arts and crafts exhibit information. Arts and crafts are probably the main reason I like to visit the New Mexico State Fair now that I am grown and culturally edified. There is always so much to see and learn.

An "Old Time" photograph of my dad (Gilbert), the twins- my brother and sister (Thomas and Laura), and I (Felicia) at the New Mexico State Fair circa 1989. Yes- we were underage, and yes these are all props! Please note that no children were harmed during the creation of this scene though guns were blazin'- Haha! 🙂

Over the years, I explored the fair in waves. When I was a child, the fair was simply about food, fun, rides, and laughter. As a young adult, all I really cared about was the Midway. The Midway was best to frolic at night, and “grew mightily over the years, evolving from a gritty little side show into the largest fair carnival in the nation.” I would go with friends or maybe cousins with my hair all teased up and my lips puckered. We would: people watch; ride the scariest rides; laugh until we felt like throwing up; buy bootlegged music CDs; then eat cotton candy, caramel apples, and big ole turkey legs. With the loud rock n roll music from the Avalanche ride blaring in our ears we were happy. There were bright, flashing lights in the Midway. The lights were accompanied by catcalls from strange looking men and women begging you to pop a few balloons with a dart, and win the greatest prize. The “greatest prize” was usually some fluffy stuffed thingy I would hug all night, and then forget about by daybreak. Now that I am a woman, I can go to the fair and take time to learn and visit all the things I missed in my youth. I could spend hours looking at art, or attempting to figure out how the hell some kid built a Lego castle bigger than me.

Cover of the New Mexico State Fair Premium List (1968)

In 1999, the official program of the New Mexico State Fair read “For the Fun of It!” Some things captured in that program guide for “the last New Mexico State Fair of the Nineties” were interesting. The marketing staff for the fair called the publication a “survival guide” and promoted the “ethnic villages” as a celebration of “culture diversity.” The Rodeo Queen that year was Juliane Baish, and it would have been nice to see her photograph in living color. Oh and I had a tear in my eye when I got to page 22 of the “survival guide” and realized that Monica and Tyrese performed together on September 10th, 1999 at Tingley Coliseum. Really?? How did I miss that? I wondered where I was that night? On the final page of the program was a full page color advertisement for Garduño’s Restaurant and Cantina. Members of my paternal family line were the original owners of Garduño’s, and it made me sad to think that in 1999 they were celebrating their 30th anniversary. The advertisement noted five locations in Albuquerque in addition to one Yester-Daves Grill (which they also owned). There was another restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada and one here in Santa Fe at that time. The ad read “we are proud of our rich New Mexico heritage and strive for authenticity in our culinary masterpieces.”

I am glad that I can now appreciate different aspects of the New Mexico State Fair. It is our fair, and the fair of future New Mexicans. Looking back tonight, I know I will forever treasure the memories from when I was young. Nothing can replace those days when I could sit under a beautiful tree with the twins. Our biggest decision back then was likely if we wanted watermelon or bubblegum syrup on our snow cones. Who could forget about the fun we had playing dress up for our old time photo shoot. I remember having so much fun that day. Now it is time to make new memories by making it a tradition to take my son regularly to the Biggest Show in New Mexico.

Sources from the New Mexico State Document Program include:

State Fair! The Biggest Show in New Mexico (1995)

New Mexico State Fair Official Program (1999)

New Mexico State Fair Premium List (1968)

Explore posts in the same categories: Books, Creative Writing, Edification, Family Photos, Food, Historic Records, Historical Facts, History, Memories, New Mexico, Publications, Worthy Reads

2 Comments on “New Mexico State Fair Memories”

  1. Angela Trumble Says:

    I love the “old time photograph” — fun!


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