By David Stevens
Despite drought and price declines, Roosevelt County farmers and livestock breeders will put their best foot forward this week when they bring in their entries for the county fair.
So reported The Portales Daily News — 50 years ago.
The annual county gathering was held in September back then, but some things never change.
The fair was focused on agriculture and entertainment in 1953, and even then some promoters were worried about the event’s future. “The fair isn’t all tinsel and cotton candy,” fair board president Parker Woodul told area Farm Bureau members that year. His point was that county residents needed to volunteer their time to fair activities.
The Roosevelt County Fair began with Old Timers Day on Sept. 22, 1953. The first event was hog judging, according to a schedule published in the newspaper.
The Portales Woman’s Club sponsored a basket dinner, Portales High School presented a band concert and each of the four fair night programs ended with a dance from 9 p.m. to midnight.
“Heigh ho, come to the fair,” the newspaper urged readers in a front-page editorial. “All together, the county fair is quite an occasion, and anyone who doesn’t take it in will be missing just one more important experience.”
Like snow cones. (Richard Sivage, 11, received the first one of the year from Jack Patton’s stand.)
Hack Davis’ band from Milnesand. (The group played at the old-timers’ luncheon.)
And G.S. Hatch’s honey bee exhibit. (“Mr. Hatch says he has been studying bees for 60 years, and still has plenty to learn about them,” the paper reported. “Although the bees are doing a pretty fair job at packing the honey in the jars, Mr. Hatch says that this is not a practical way to handle honey. … He set up this display only to enable people to look into a hive and watch the bees at work.”)
Dillard Nuchols, 16, of Elida, was among the top award winners in 1953. His 1,045-pound Hereford from the A.L. French ranch was judged grand champion in the junior beef show. It went on to the state fair competition. Reserve champion Doris Franklin’s calf brought the top price of 41 cents per pound at the fair auction. Hatch Packing company submitted the winning bid.
Mrs. R.C. Grunig must have been one of the best cooks in the area back then. She won first-place prizes for string beans, corn, sweet potatoes, chili sauce, cherries and mixed pickles.
The fair’s second-annual old-timers reunion attracted 300 to the National Guard armory. Mrs. Eddy White — “a recognized authority on the legends and history of this county” — talked about early-day cowboys and their dislike for homesteaders. She said rancher Jim Newman told his hands “Don’t give ’em anything, don’t lend ’em anything and don’t sell ’em anything, not even a cottonwood switch.”
Virgina Ann Vaughn of Kenna was named queen of the county fair at the colorful horse show. She was unable to lead the annual fair parade because she had to travel to Albuquerque for the state fair queen competition.
County school children got the day off for the parade, which ended the fair’s four-day run. Five bands and Lt. Gov. Tibo Chavez participated in the event.
The Portales Daily News’ front-page editorial focused on the fair again at its conclusion on Sept. 25, 1953. The newspaper reported the fair existed only because of the “enthusiasm of a few people” and worried the county fair was a dying breed.
“The tradition of the county fair should not ever be allowed to die in America,” the paper reported, “for it provides opportunities for youngsters, and older persons also, to be recognized for a type of worthwhile activity that is seldom otherwise noticed.”
Fifty years later, some things remain the same.