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Real Livestock, Virtual Cotton Candy: 2020 New Mexico State Fair

In 1906, Albuquerque schools preemptively closed for a week's vacation because so many students had skipped school in previous years to attend the annual New Mexico State Fair. (SofiLayla/Pixabay)
In 1906, Albuquerque schools preemptively closed for a week's vacation because so many students had skipped school in previous years to attend the annual New Mexico State Fair. (SofiLayla/Pixabay)
September 14, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Kids and parents looking for remote-learning activities this week can stroll through the livestock barns at the virtual New Mexico State Fair, and even enjoy music performances on their laptops.

The 2020 "Home Is Where the Fair Is" starts today in Albuquerque. But this year, 4H kids who have spent a year raising sheep, goats and rabbits will compete virtually, while others watch the competitions at home due to the coronavirus.

Dan Mourning, general manager for Expo New Mexico, has run the fair for 10 years, and said the pandemic kicked creativity into high gear.

"We thought, well, it's important for the 4H and the FFA kids," Mourning said. "We needed to do something for them to ensure that their yearlong projects, and their investments and their time, and the efforts they put out, would not go to waste."

Spectators will not be allowed on the fairgrounds, but can watch agricultural public speaking and science fair competitions, enjoy live music from home and even keep track of who wins the annual salsa contest.

The virtual fair will also host competitions for New Mexico residents in categories including cake decorating, floral arrangements and photography.

In normal years, a half-million people attend the New Mexico State Fair. Mourning said after accepting that couldn't happen this year, fair organizers worked for months to create meaningful programming.

"Parents, kids, take a break for maybe 30 minutes, an hour, whatever time you have," Mourning said. "Go on and do some fun activities. I think we're going to have some ability to also educate kids, especially urban kids, 'Hey guess what? Chocolate milk doesn't come from a brown cow.' "

The first fair event, held on a single day in Oct. 1881, was called the New Mexico Territorial Fair. In 1964, New Mexico's state fair became the first in the country to have an exhibit solely devoted to Native American art and culture.

To find out more about the virtual fair, look online at exponm.com.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM