Youth expo to replace Curry fair
Fair postponed to 2021 amid restrictions on mass gatherings.
June 17, 2020
CLOVIS — Hello, Curry County Expo. See you next year, Curry County Fair.
Curry County commissioners said both things, and plenty more during a 45-minute conversation in a Wednesday special meeting.
Commissioners said they felt their hands were tied by the prospect of continued mass gathering restrictions for a fair that normally draws more than 25,000 people over five days, and unanimously approved two motions:
• Postponement of the fair to 2021 due to limitations on gatherings pursuant to state public health orders.
• Schedule a Curry County Expo that opens only the Kevin Roberts Show Arena, livestock barns and Home Arts Building for judged youth events under the umbrellas of FFA and extension offices, opens the fairgrounds outdoor area for ag mechanics entries and leaves the expo open to the public pursuant to whatever public health orders exist at the time.
The fair was scheduled for Aug. 11-15, and nobody suggested moving the expo to a different timeframe. Expo details will be worked out by the fair board, but Fairgrounds Director Kadee Hande said admission prices were connected to the now-postponed fair, and commissioners generally agreed with her there would be no value in charging expo admission.
The commission decided at its June 2 meeting it would preserve youth events, and revisit the entertainment portion of the fair in the Wednesday special meeting to perhaps gather more information on the future of mass gathering restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victor Reyes of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office addressed the commission prior to the fair discussion, and gave no particulars about potential mass gathering restrictions in August. But commissioners were pretty much told not to hold their breath.
“As we continue to reopen various parts of the economy, we'd be very careful about what we consider mass gatherings,” Reyes said. “It's unlikely that number is going to change in a way that we would see county fairs be able to operate in a way close to what has always been the case.”
Under an assumption gatherings would be limited to 100, as is anticipated for July, fair board members were confident they could hold most judged events and remain well under the cap. Board President Clay Franklin said in the case of livestock entries, there could be flexibility on letting kids taking animals home early if they’re not involved in the livestock sale.
“The sale becomes a tougher challenge, because we need community participation,” Franklin said. “It is our goal and our commitment to these kids … to do something so we have a show. We'll try to follow those rules, whatever they are. I think we can handle it.”
For fair staples like concerts and a carnival, Hande said a cap of 100 is difficult to envision. At the commercial barn, for example, Hande said 39 booths manned by two people each would leave just 22 slots for the public, and foot traffic is the point of the booths.
Franklin mentioned the fair board voted for a working title of the Curry County Expo with hopes of helping create a distinct event that didn’t carry a fair’s expectations. McDaniel and Hande said the labeling was helpful for both public messaging and legal purposes.
County Manager Lance Pyle, in recommending cancellation of the fair and preservation of youth events in late May, noted a normal fair under mass gathering restrictions could cost the county up to $181,000.
“I've looked at this thing in every direction,” Commissioner Robert Thornton said, “and I don't know how in good conscience we could commit that money to a fair not knowing if we'll have the ability to have people there or if people would be willing to come.
“We’re going to have to stand up and say enough is enough, but I don’t think we should do that with taxpayer dollars. I don’t think that is a responsible way to do it.”
Commissioner Chet Spear said he was “frustrated, disappointed and angry” the governor’s office was unwilling to provide direction on a county fair that draws more than 25,000 people every year.
“We need to go forward together for the benefit of our kids ... (but) it’s not fair to our taxpayers to risk $181,000 on if we can have a fair,” Spear said. “We have the space to do (an expo); we have the smart people to organize that. Due to the lack of direction from Santa Fe and their apparent unwillingness to provide direction, we have to cancel the Curry County Fair.”
Commissioners spoke of restricting the expo to livestock exhibits. Franklin corrected commissioners with a reminder youth events covered more than just livestock, and the infection risk in non-livestock categories would be small because contestants drop off their entries and leave.