LOVINGTON — As of now, the fair and rodeo is on.
The 2020 Lea County 85th Annual Fair and PRCA Rodeo heads this way, set for July 31-Aug. 8.
“The fair board, the commissioners and I are planning the 2020 Lea County 85th Fair and Rodeo,” said Jim Kemp, fairgrounds general manager. “As of right now, that’s the direction we’re taking.
“Obviously, there are uncertainties with the COVID virus, but we’re keeping up to date with directives from the State of New Mexico’s Public Health Department (NMDOH), keeping abreast of all that. We don’t know what they’re going to do next, but you’ll worry yourself sick trying to figure that out. So, we’re taking the stance of preparing for it as we do every year,” Kemp said.
Fair Board Chairman Larry Wheeler added, “As of right now, we’re still planning to have (the fair and rodeo). There’s a possibility we might not, but as of right now we’re planning to go on. The plan is to go forward. … We’re in pretty good shape. … But there is so much uncertainty not knowing if the governor’s going to shut us all down.”
Wheeler acknowledged there probably will be changes from previous annual events to keep the event COVID-safe.
“In the next couple of weeks, we will be putting our heads together to see what we’re going to have to do to make it happen,” Wheeler con cluded.
Kemp pointed out a 30-page coronavirus safety guideline published by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associa tion (PRCA) on the PRCA website. The organization established rules for all participants and host sites to follow.
Meanwhile, due to coronavirus restric tions, Kemp said more than 110 rodeos aroung the country already have been cancelled this year.
In addition to rodeo safety rules, the Lea County organizers are watching for other issues.
“The amusement providers have a set of guidelines that they have to abide by. Others have their own guidelines,” Kemp said. “We have to look at all of it. If those are still in place, that’s going to be something we have to look at.”
Lea County Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Long insisted the time has come to return to normal life, especially since thousands of people in the country already have ignored virus safety rules.
“With the hundreds of thousands of people who are protesting, I see no reason we couldn’t have a fair and rodeo here in Lea County,” Long said. “People are out and about and restrictions are being lifted all over the country.”
Long acknowledged some people may choose to stay home.
“If you are immune compromised, you may not want to go, but the rest of us will want to go,” Long said. “I think it’s time for us to feel our freedom again. America is not the kind of country that can be locked down for long. Getting back to our real lives is what we need at this point. So, I think the fair and rodeo will be a fabulous thing this year.”
The commissioner specifically gave a nod to the youth who spend almost a year preparing livestock for the show and sale.
“These kids have been working on their animals and they’ve had lots more time on their hands to do this type of thing,” Long said with reference to school closings due to the pandemic. “We may have some awesome animals to show. I want them to have the opportunity to show Lea County what they have done.”
Dean Jackson, vice chairman of the county commission and long-time supporter of the fair and rodeo, confirmed, “We are proceeding cautiously as planned. Everything is proceeding as planned. There is an option to back out. We’re closely watching everything. It probably won’t be the fair week we’re used to.”
Plans include starting as usual with the Hispanic Heritage Night on Friday, July 31, and continuing through with “mutton busting,” special rodeo, the PRCA rodeo, Xtreme Bulls, the 60th annual fiddlers’ contest, royalty contests, a concert series, carnival rides, the livestock show and sale, the Pioneer Iron Chef Cook Off, dozens of vendor booths and much more through Saturday, Aug. 8.
“Lea County is going to look at the safety and wellbeing of everybody that comes — guests, participants, our organizational partners and our community. We want to make sure we put on something that is socially responsible,” Kemp concluded, “The fair board, the commissioners and county administration, we’re all on the same page where we’re at right now. We’re planning on the 85th Fair and Rodeo.”