[Transcribed from the 60th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo program for the event held August 5-12, 1995]
The History of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo
In 1935, the editor of the Lovington Daily Leader, Luke Roberts, led an effort to boost farming in this area and a meeting of interested people was called. John Easley, a local rancher and developer, attended this meeting and was made chairman of a committee to help organize the governing board for the first Lea County Fair.
In 1936 Lea County Fair Association officers were John Easley, president, James P. McClish, vice president, and Bea McLaren, secretary-treasurer. Bea Fort was secretary to W. E. (Bunny) Flint, Lea County Agent and was secretary for the Lea County Fair Association for many years and gave invaluable help.
Directors of the 1936 Lea County Fair were: J. W. Owens – Eunice; J. T. Wall – Tatum; Joe S. Hill – McDonald; E. L. Harbison – Lovington; A. T. Hutcherson – Crossroads; Pete Anderson – Hobbs; Luke Roberts, Hermon Robinson, and Mrs. Ham Bishop – Lovington.
Superintendents of divisions were R. O. Beemer, J. S. Hiss, J. P. McClish, John Easley, Mrs. Denver Thompson, Mrs. H. H. Hamilton, Mrs. C. E. Kindel, Mrs. Tom Neal, Jim Clayton, Cora Mamie Wilks, Mrs. Benton Mosley, Mrs. Bunk Shipp, and Mrs Bob Stoneham. The years have brought new names to the different divisions, but these were the first.
Community directors in 1936 came from Crossroads, Pitchfork, Caprock, Tatum, Highway, McDonald, Prairieview, Humble City, Knowles, Hobbs, Eunice, Jal, Monument, Hester, Plainview, Maljamar, Nadine, Ochoa, Lovington, and Pearl.
The first fairs were held around the courthouse square in whatever buildings happened to be empty. The building on the corner of Love and Central was used for Livestock. During the years of World War II, there was no fair.
In 1939, the land was bought on which the Lea Conty Fair and Rodeo is now held. The fair board was able to buy a quarter section of land for $2000. Signing the note to buy the land were Bunny Flint, Bill Anderson, Hobdy Gann and John Easley. The Lea Fair Association was incorporated in 1939. At $25 a share, 120 shares were sold to raise enough money to build the bull barn, the first building to be built on the fair grounds. It was used for the first time in 1940 for livestock. Tents were used to house other fair exhibits that year. Dances were held in the bull barn to raise more money for the buildings. When the bull barn was built, it was not with contracted labor but the volunteer labor of Easley, Hobdy Gann, Anderson, Flint, Jack Cotter and H. J. (Punk) Burns. In 1950, it was suggested that the county needed to be in charge of the fair. The old Fair Board deeded 10 acres of land to the county. The Chamber of Commerce and the County Commissioners united in an effort to pass a bond issue and the first big fair building was built.
In 1960, part of the land bought originally by the fair board was sold and a part of the old Fair Association money was used when the McClure Rodeo Arena was built. Everything at the fairgrounds was laid out with the future in mind. Troy Fort designed the arena; Glen Werhan built the concrete walls; the lights were put up by Dale Ancell at no cost other than materials. It is impossible to name all who helped since the list would be endless.
The old fair association was dissolved in 1969 after part of the land had been given to Lea County. The board paid $275 a share on the original $25 shares and a new fair association came into being.