Santa Fe County Fair highlights area agricultural pursuits

·4 min read

Aug. 5—Grunts, squeals, oinks and a pungent odor emanated from the livestock arena at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds on Thursday morning.

Inside the arena, pigs stuck their snouts in the air, flicked their pointed ears back and forth and wagged their curly tails almost like dogs, seemingly strutting for the audience during the morning Swine Show.

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The Santa Fe County Fair continues Friday and Saturday at the fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road. All events are free to the public.

Their owners — youth clad in blue jeans, boots and button-down shirts — used their crops judiciously, directing the animals around the arena for the benefit of bleachers full of family members, friends and fellow competitors.

Oklahoma livestock judge Justin Jensen studied each animal carefully before winnowing the contestants down, noting for the audience the "width and muscularity" of one hog, the "pliable center body shape" of another and the "youthful and attractive" silhouette of a third, before declaring winners.

There are multiple categories, including one for wild-looking reddish-brown Duroc pigs, Hampshire hogs whose black bodies have a white stripe around their forequarters and the pink Yorkshire pigs bred for their back bacon and relatively lean meat.

Jensen also cast a keen eye on the demeanor of the human competitors for the showmanship award, giving points for ring control, "intense, but not overly intense eye contact" and thoughtful answers to the question, "What would you change about your hog?"

A group of tykes decked out in boots, cowboy hats, jeans and caps — miniature versions of their adult counterparts who filled the stands — played happily in the sand beside the arena.

Backstage, in a series of adjoining animal pens, cattle were being groomed — some even getting blow-dried — for the afternoon cattle show.

Clucking, crowing and honking could be heard coming from the small animal barn next door, where everyday and exotic breeds of chickens, geese and rabbits are on display and also being judged and awarded ribbons.

The animals being shown at the fair were raised from infancy by youth in area 4-H programs.

The price of a piglet starts around $300, Edgewood Chaparrals 4-H Club leader Kelly Jones said Thursday, but after a season of feed and caring, the same animal could fetch thousands at auction or when sold by the pound.

The Santa Fe County Fair started Wednesday and runs through Saturday. The county fair livestock auction will take place at 4 p.m. Friday. Buyers can sign up at a complimentary barbecue luncheon starting at 2:30 p.m.

Animals purchased at auction can be processed by meat packers and delivered to the purchaser for eating later.

But not all the animals are raised for food.

Some are just "showoffs," 14-year-old Johni Gallegos said Thursday.

"You wouldn't get more than a burrito out of these two," she said, gesturing to two of the 14 rabbits she showed at this year's fair.

The county fair is an opportunity for the region's ranching and farming families and local 4-H clubs to show off their agricultural projects to one another and the community.

The fair also has "open" categories and features indoor exhibits submitted by the public, including art, baking, gardening, quilting, woodworking and photography to name a few.

The Santa Fe County Fair has historically been modest, but it is still recovering after being closed to the public in 2020 due to COVID-19, and it is particularly small this year. To give an example, while the flower competition has in the past been competitive, this year there was but a single rose.

"Prior to COVID, we used to get a lot more," said Santa Fe County program manager Anna War. "We had all the flowers in a separate room. We're just now rebounding ... I want to get back to that place."

War said the smaller number of indoor exhibits also reflects the loss of many arts and crafts entries that would have been submitted from people at the county's five senior centers, which have been closed for most of the past two years and were recently shut down again after a rash of positive tests. A vacant position in the county Extension office, formerly filled by someone who did a lot of outreach, has also had an effect, War said.

Upcoming events at the fair include "Family Fun Day" on Saturday, which will include an "Animal Learning Lab" featuring a scavenger hunt that asks participants to meet the animals up close and learn about them to win prizes.

A "Healthy Living Extravaganza," also Saturday, will feature a blender bike station where people can load a bicycle-powered blender with a variety of fresh ingredients and peddle their way to a refreshing smoothie.

All Santa Fe County Fair events, including a Friday night dance featuring live music and a Saturday night dance featuring a DJ — starting at 8 p.m. both nights — are free to the public.