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Fair rings up more than $1.7 million for economy; Officials say some entertainment acts and vendors have already signed on for 2018

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James Duffey, in back, says that the fair is not only a big economic event in the region, generating more than $1.7 million this year, but also an important event for youth to show their animals, hone their skills and perhaps earn some money. A member of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair Board of Directors, Duffey is shown here as one of the participants in a competition among members of the Chaves County Giant Pumpkin Growers Association. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The fair earlier this month wasn’t just a chance for family entertainment or an opportunity to see some livestock, flowers and crops, and arts and crafts.

(Submitted Graphic)

The Eastern New Mexico State Fair, open to the public for six days starting Oct. 2, also provided a significant boost to the local economy, as well as some enrichment for youth who participated.

“It’s one of the biggest single economic events in the city,” said John Mulcahy, president of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.

The estimated direct financial impact of the fair was $1.74 million, according to information provided by Mulcahy and members of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair Board of Directors.

Paid attendance numbered 24,280, but total attendance exceeded that total, as some people were given free admission. The $1.74 million estimated revenue generation includes parking and gate receipts, livestock sales, carnival rides and games, and estimated payments for hotel and RV nights and meals by visitors and exhibitors, many of whom came from outside the region.

But, as board member James Duffey and board Vice Chair T. Calder Ezell Jr., pointed out, the local economy benefits in many ways beyond what can be accounted for at the fairgrounds on Southeast Main Street.

“A lot of families from rural areas do their Christmas shopping while they are here,” said Ezell, “because they don’t have a Target. They don’t have a Roswell Livestock (and Farm Supply).”

Duffey added that the fair benefits sellers of feed, livestock goods and veterinarian supplies.

Duffey said the annual fair has experienced good growth in recent years, including a 17 percent jump in parking and gate receipts from 2016 to its 2017 total of $182,160 and a 12 percent increase in the junior livestock auction sales to a record-high of $492,061 on 109 head this year.

“That money goes back to kids to purchase more animals or pay feed bills or their college educations, a whole variety of things they use those funds for,” said Duffey.

Duffey points out that the livestock sold are only the “best of the best” among animals shown during the fair. This year, 1,547 animals were exhibited by 443 entrants from 20 counties in New Mexico. Seventy-one percent of the junior livestock exhibitors were from outside Chaves County, while 54 percent of the 102 youth in the livestock auction came from other areas in New Mexico.

For youth, the fair also makes an unquantifiable contribution to their educations, Duffey said. He explained that youth are involved in their 4-H or Future Farmers of America projects all year, acquiring valuable knowledge and skills and developing discipline and work ethic. Some will see their efforts pay off in scholarships to college, he added.

Duffey and Ezzell said another sign of the economic strength of the fair is that that the commercial barn was full of exhibitors this year, and some entertainment acts and vendors already have signed up for 2018.

“If we have more space, we have more people standing in line wanting commercial exhibit space,” Duffey said, “food vendors and in our commercial building, too.”

The fair is the major fundraiser for the Eastern New Mexico State Fair board, which is the nonprofit organization that funds year-round events, the fairgrounds and its buildings. The fair is considered the oldest in the state, started in 1932 as the Chaves County Cotton Carnival and located at the fairgrounds in 1949.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.