By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Red, white and blue decorations filled the pavilion as several generations of Roosevelt County families and community members gathered to celebrate 100 years of fairs in Roosevelt County Friday at the fairgrounds.
“It’s an important part of our history,” said Tim Allison, event organizer and fairboard member .“The fairs were a place for the people to get together, like a reunion.”
According to Allison the dynamics of the fair have changed somewhat over the years, but the fair has basically stayed the same. He says there are not as many animals or rural kids involved as there were in past years, but new generations are coming in, he noted.
“There are some kids showing that are third and fourth generation, said Allison. Their parents and family have been involved over the years and that involvement continues today,” Allison said. “The county fair is a chance for the kids to showcase their stuff. The fair is also a way to teach people about agriculture. It’s not just for the rural kids but for city kids also,” Allison said.
Beginning in 1906-1907, the first fairs in the county were held in the Richland, Rogers and Inez communities, according to the celebration committee. Known as community fairs, small agriculture displays were the first items to be shown. Eventually the displays grew to include other items such as baked goods, sewing, artwork and livestock. Some of the first prizes awarded were a crate of cantaloupes, 50 pounds of flour, and 500 pounds of coal.
Dora agriculture teacher Kit Pettigrew, has attended the RCF for the past 19 years with his students and family.
“The fairs bring so many people together. It allows you to see people you don’t normally see and let’s the kids make new friendships,” said Pettigrew. “The competition and responsibility also helps to grow the kids.
“It’s great, it hasn’t changed much,” said Pettigrew. “The animals we show are different.”
Ila Jean Clark was also in attendance. This is the first year that she did not enter any canned goods in the fair, Clark said. The Portales resident said she has entered many items over the years, her first entry being a braided rug.
“There (weren’t) as many 4-H things entered (in past fairs), it was more animals and things like that, that were entered in the fair,” Clark said.
The celebration kicked off with a program presented by the celebration committee and emceed by Silver Paiz Melancon, 2003 Roosevelt County Fair Queen.
Past and present agriculture teachers and agents, fairboard members, superintendents and fair royalty were presented with certificates in honor of their commitment and support of the fair over the years. Several community members and individuals were also recognized.
A proclamation from the New Mexico State Legislature, signed by Sen. Stuart Ingle, was presented to Fairboard President Jana Roberts in honor of the fair’s 100th anniversary.
In attendance was Elida native, Doris Wall, who was recognized for reaching her 100th birthday in May. Wall has lived in Roosevelt County her entire life and attended the fair as an adult, she said.
As the party continued a slide show featuring historical photos of the fair was started and cake and ice cream were served to those in attendance.
The celebration committee is putting together a history book about the Roosevelt County Fair. They are looking for any pictures, stories or memorabilia that relates to the fairs, past and present, said Melissa Lamb, event organizer. The information can be dropped off at the Roosevelt County Extension office until the end of September.