Children greet the Rock-it Robot at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, Tuesday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
By nightfall, the lights were aglow, the shrieks of glee were audible, and carnival workers solicited passers-by to try their hand at familiar fair games. And that was just in the midway, as the carnival opened Tuesday evening, on the second day of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair. Less than a few hours after the 4 p.m. gate opening, the fair was jam-packed with activity, off the midway grounds, too.
A painting demonstration finished up at 4:30 p.m., in the Arts & Crafts Educational Building. Throughout the fairgrounds, Street Magic began conducting interactive tricks at 5:30 p.m. Garth Roberg, a one-man band, performed at 6:30 p.m., in the Commercial Building. At 7 oâ€™clock, bands began battling on the Coca-Cola Stage, the Wild West Shootout kicked of f in the Rodeo Arena, and Kenny Ahern put on his own half-magic, halfacrobat show. And, again, this was all just Tuesday.
The rest of the week includes highlights such as belly dancers, fiddlers, the Chisum Challenge (tickets required), and a hypnotist. Additionally, nightly events in the rodeo arena and performers and concerts galore await fair attendees. And, of course, thereâ€™s the full slate of animal shows and art demonstrations.
For those with strong enough stomachs, the carnival promises plenty of dizzying speed and swirls. Freddy Miller, the owner of Miller Spectacular Shows and the 27 rides on the midway, five more than last year, emphasizes one of the carnivalâ€™s attractions, in particular. Eclipse, he explains, is one of only three rides of its kind in the world, and the only one in the U.S. He expects it, an extremely fast, spinning contraption that tilts passengers at angles up to 60 degrees, to be the hit of the midway.
Mainstays such as the giant Ferris wheel and up-and-comers like the 100- foot drop tower are also available to tickle tummies. Games for all ages and skills reward success with stuffed cartoon characters, too. Typical fair food â€” corn dogs, funnel cakes, corn on the cob, popcorn and turkey legs â€” abound. BBQ, burritos, pizza and ice cream are other options. In the Commercial Building, every organization in eastern New Mexico seems to be represented. Under the same roof, an assortment of goods for sale matches the fairâ€™s organizational diversity.
AARP and New Mexico Heart Institute are getting in on the fair action, too. Both are offering free and reduced-price services, including flu shots. Following up the fairâ€™s â€œspecial needsâ€ Tuesday, Wednesday is Senior Day at the fair. All seniors 55- years-old-plus will get free entry to the fair all day, and special events will be held for seniors from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, the carnival is open 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The carnival is open noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday.
Wristbands for unlimited rides during all open carnival hours can be purchased for $20 on Wednesday and Thursday, $25 on Friday and $30 on Saturday. Calvin Michael Hood, 4, and Liani Sanchez, 5, were ecstatic to be wearing the unlimited bracelets, Tuesday night. Both expressed great pleasure with the â€œlady bug ride.â€ Sanchez liked the speed, and, when asked how many rides he would do, Hood put up all five fingers. Too busy to enjoy the excitement outside of the fair office herself, Trisha Lair, fair manager, was right on when describing the festivities thus far: â€œSo far, so good.â€