Lincoln County Fair History
59 Years Of The Lincoln County Fair!
The following history was compiled from information provided by former Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Agent Ralph Dunlap of Lincoln, and Eleanor Jones (deceased), two of the Lincoln County Fair founders.
In December 2003, Ralph Dunlap was inducted into the New Mexico 4H Hall Of Fame, in recognition of his service as Lincoln County Extension Agent and, in particular, his contributions to the youth of Lincoln County through the 4H program.
The Lincoln County Fair was started at a meeting of the Capitan Chamber of Commerce in early 1953. Fletcher Hall was chairman and some of the others present were Mary Werner, Archie Fuchs, and Charlie Jones.
On March 11, 1956, the founders of Achievement Day met and renamed the event The Lincoln County Fair. A Fair Board was formed, with Charles Jones elected president and Eleanor Jones elected secretary-treasurer, positions they retained until 1985.
The Fair was still a small event. Exhibits were set up on Friday and some were judged that day. Others were judged on Saturday. Fletcher Hall was in charge of the afternoon rodeo events such as the Rescue Race, which he usually won by rescuing Emma Gene, who often had bruises to show for it, but later became his wife. The rodeo events were for local cowboys and one was a timed event called The Modern Cowboy Race. The contestant entered the arena with a horse in his pickup or trailer, unloaded the horse, roped and tied a calf, loaded the horse, and drove across the finish line. One cowboy left his trailer gate open so he could get a fast start, but as he entered the arena and u-turned in the middle, the horse's rear feet horse fell out, forcing it to pedal like mad with its back feet. When the trailer stopped, the horse jumped back in and would not get out, much to the chagrin of the cowboy and the amusement of the crowd.
The grandstands from the rodeo grounds east of Capitan were moved to the old school grounds using Truman Spencers semi. The early Fair buildings were all put up with donated labor. The Smokey Bear Stampede was organized to raise money for the Fair. Troy Lane was the stock contractor, and The Aggie Ramblers played for the dance. Initially, a free barbecue preceded the rodeo on the afternoon of the Fourth of July. Charles Jones donated the beef and Clint Sultemeier was the cook, with other ranchers donating beef in later years. Geneva Walker and I ran the concession stand that first year and after paying all the bills, we cleared $3.46. The Stampede quickly grew to a three-day event with a dance on the Fourth. The rodeo usually paid the expenses and the dance was the profit.
The 1960s and 70s brought some big changes. The Fair was incorporated in 1960. The arena was lighted in 1961 and land was purchased from Frank Pino to enlarge the parking lot.
The next big change was the addition of the Junior Livestock Sale in the early 60s. Lamoyne Carpenter volunteered to get buyers if we would have a sale, and he helped for many years. The addition of the sale created more interest in the Fair and extra days were added to accommodate the increased events.
1969 was a very bad year. The Fair building burned to the ground just before the Stampede. A trailer was rented for an office and school superintendent Bud Darling let us use the gym for our dances. The animal barn burned just before the Fair and Bud let us use the school for our inside exhibits. After a number of meetings, it was decided we had to go ahead and borrow money for a new Fair building and animal barn. Without the help of Johnson Stearns, the Lincoln County Commissioners, the Capitan Village Council, and the American Legion, we never could have done it.
In 1971 we were going to try to raise money to build the meeting room, storeroom, and restrooms. A generous gift from Jackie Spencer allowed us to build them in time for the 1972 Stampede and Fair. The barn and sales rings were completed and the pens were erected, along with several sets of bleachers. Over the years, there was very little paid labor for any of this...folks from all over the County just came on, pitched in, and worked.
Lincoln County Fair continues as an important part of the rural and local communities of Lincoln County. 4-H, FFA and local citizens look forward to participating in the events that the fair brings year after year.