Janae washes her pig. She also rises early to feed it and walks it in preparation for the Socorro County Fair.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain phtotos

Kids in Socorro County are gearing up for the County Fair, a moment to put on display the hard work they’ve been putting in for months raising animals and completing other projects like bead work or leather work.

4-H programs encourage kids to complete all kinds of projects, and Socorro County’s youth are ready for the fair. The final week before fair begins will be full of all kinds of preparation.

Madison Chavez-Lopez is almost ready to show her lamb Pudgy. She’s working on getting him to push more when she braces him. Pudgy also needs a wash and a shave. The 8-year-old is also showing silkie chickens.

“I have this one black one, she has a crooked beak, but I still love her anyway,” said Chavez-Lopez.

Esperanza Lopez has been working with her
lambs to make sure they push hard when she
braces them in preparation for showing the

Along with showing animals, she’s competing for the title of fair sweetheart. The list of reasons she wants to compete is fairly straightforward: “You have to be kind. It seems like a lot of fun. It involves horses. You get to do a speech. You get to show them what you do with your animals and all it is about is fun.”

Her speech on Socorro history is already written down on notecards.

Chavez-Lopez’s best advice for other kids is “when you show it’s not all about the money, it’s just all about fun. You should be happy anyway if you don’t win.”

As valuable as good sportsmanship is, the money that kids can earn if they are able to auction off their livestock can also make a big difference in their life.

Kimberly, 16, is showing lambs this year and 14 days out from the fair she was feeling a little nervous.

“This is my second year showing lambs. I made auction last year. I have two lambs, Rica and Sanjo. One’s really stubborn and another one’s like really sweet.”

This year she’s focused on getting the lambs more muscle and has learned different ways to walk and brace her animals. Kimberly is a 4-H officer, responsible for song and rec, so she creates games for club meetings and helps plan events.

Kimberly is a resident at New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranch in Veguita, which offers residential care for kids 10 to 18.

Kimberly is excited to show two lambs at this year’s Socorro County Fair. She’s grateful to local farmer Pablo Romero, who gave her the lambs.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

“I’m hoping at least to get to auction,” said Kimberly. “I think that’s a really big thing for me. I think that we could get a lot of opportunities with the money that we get from that.

“Especially, being here at the ranches, is a big thing, because a lot of times we don’t have places to go and when we leave here, we have that money to go to college or whatever is needed.”

Fourteen-year-old Janae, who also lives on the ranch, raised one pig last year, but it got sick and passed away before fair. This year she wanted to try again and is bringing two pig to the fair.

One of the pigs is happy, cheerful and outgoing, while the other is shy and keeps more to itself. The experience has taught her a lot about building relationships with animals.

“You can see different perspectives. Your animal can act like you a lot,” she said.

Preparing for the fair means spending time with your animals, whether that’s walking them or feeding them crackers, said 16-year-old Cougar, who was washing his pigs Milk and Cookies alongside Janae.

Esperanza Lopez shows off a knife holder that she made. Although she won’t be entering any painted leatherwork into the fair, she will be competing with stamped leatherwork.

Janae has some stage fright, so she thinks participating in 4-H and at the fair is getting her out of her comfort zone.

She’s an officer in her 4-H group, which means she helps other kids at the ranch learn how to treat their animals and helps build relationships at team meetings.

“I didn’t think I would like it because getting dirty a lot, and things you don’t really want to do, but in the end I think it’s really worth it from all the money and all the lessons you take out of 4-H.”

Across the county in Luis Lopez, Esperanza Lopez is preparing for her fourth year showing animals at the Socorro County Fair. The number of animal’s she’s showing has increased dramatically from last year, when she took a lamb and a goat.

This year, she’s got a whole menagerie with heifers, lambs, goats and chickens.

Her heifer is the easiest to work with but, she’s a big fan of lambs. She’s been working hard with her lambs to improve their hair, muscle and their pushing.

“I just changed my whole determination to show,” she said. “It really changed from just a little hobby to a full-time thing that I want to do for probably the rest of my life, because I want to breed show lambs when I’m older and probably show steers.”

The turkey is Martean Belmontez’s favorite animal to raise, because it’s easy to work with and friendly. Along with the turkey, Belmontez will also show chickens, a lamb and possibly a goat.

As serious as Lopez is about lambs and steers, her interests are varied: she’s done archery through 4-H, competed in livestock calling and is entering leather work and bead work into the fair. She’ll also be making plum jelly with her grandma to enter in the fair.

She’s also making sure her friends will be able to show at the fair in style: she’s made a belt painted with sunflowers and fair animals for one of the other girls showing and a leather knife holder for another competitor.

Lopez is almost ready for the fair, although she’d like to get a little more weight on her goat.

Just a few miles south in San Antonio, Martean Belmontez is trying to get his meat hens up to weight before fair day. Belmontez, 14, will show a lamb, a turkey and meat hens, and maybe a goat.

One challenge to raising the animals has been bobcats, who have been picking off the chickens, ducks and turkeys at his San Antonio home. The experience has taught him about working hard.

“They’re a lot to keep up with, with school and football and all that, I have barely any time to go out there with them, but we get it done,” he said.

Belmontez’s advice for other kids: Just do it.

“I did it and I fell in love with it, so just do it,” he said. “I had no idea what it was, just knew it had animals, and I had chickens, so we put them in.”