Whether you’re in Pearl River County, Mississippi or Socorro, New Mexico, one thing remains the same: the enthusiasm for the county fair and rodeo.

The smell of funnel cakes, fancy chickens waiting to be judged, and local art and crafts on display—fairs highlight so much community skill and creativity. In Pearl River County, Mississippi there were, what seemed to me, an especially large number of indoor exhibit entries for canning and pickling food.

Fairs also usually have delicious and bad-for-you food. I’m excited to enjoy those fair staples this week and to find out what makes the Socorro fair unique. I’m most excited for the chainsaw competition because I have never seen one before. I’m not even sure what it entails. What are the rules of a chainsaw competition? Come Saturday, I will find out first hand.

Growing up I used to go to the Southern New Mexico State Fair in Las Cruces.  I was always astonished by the skill of local artists and photographers featured at the fair. New Mexico truly is a home for the visual arts.

When I was a little kid, the other big appeal of the Southern New Mexico State Fair was the magic show. I know, it sounds dorky—and it uh, is dorky, but Jamie O’Hara, The Magic Guy, was something of a local legend, especially if you were under the age of 10. From the simple to the complex, his magic tricks were always delivered with pizazz and showmanship that made you want to join in. At least, that’s how I remember them. I really hope he’s still doing magic shows somewhere. This feels like something I should google, but it’s one of those, maybe it’s better not to disrupt the childhood memory with a google search thing.

The fair was also one of the first places where I got to take a few dollars for food and wander off with friends, and no parental supervision. At least, again, that’s how I remember it.

The first time I visited the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque I was already an adult. I was a student at UNM and one of my friends desperately wanted to visit the fancy chickens at the fair. I’m still not sure what made her so enthusiastic about fancy chickens, but her enthusiasm was infectious.

Neither of us had a car, so we headed to the bus stop in front of Frontier and climbed aboard the 66. To this day, it’s still the fullest bus I’ve ever ridden. Every seat was filled and there was standing room only. At several stops along Central, people were turned away from boarding. I’m pretty sure we chose a reduced ticket price fair day to make our chicken pilgrimage.

The fancy chickens were indeed very fancy. My friend was enamored with the chickens clad in all black, from their feathers to their feet. I loved the chickens with legs so fluffy and feathered, they appeared to be wearing fancy pants.

At the time, I had no idea that the Albuquerque fairgrounds were tucked away in the middle of the city. Sure, I’d ridden past them about a zillion times, but man was I amazed to see a whole fair open up before me in the heart of a bustling city.

I always assumed an unspoken rule of fairs was that they should be held just outside the city, or at the edge somewhere, a location with plenty of room to park horse trailers.


Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain