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State Fair: Diamond time

More than 400,000 visitors enjoyed last year's State Fair and officials are anticipating a 10 percent increase this year. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)
More than 400,000 visitors enjoyed last year's State Fair and officials are anticipating a 10 percent increase this year. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)
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2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the New Mexico State Fair, and as visitors pass through Tingley Coliseum, they should take a moment to remember the coliseum’s namesake, former Gov. Clyde Tingley, who in 1938 resurrected the defunct State Fair, breaking ground at the current location.

The evolution of the New Mexico State Fair is recounted in special exhibits featuring photos, memorabilia and text that will be set up at the entrances to buildings around the fairgrounds during its run Sept. 11-22.

Last year, the State Fair drew more than 400,000 visitors. Fair officials say they are anticipating a 10 percent increase among fairgoers this year. Consider that in 1938 the entire population of New Mexico was only about 500,000, says New Mexico state historian Rick Hendricks.

While State Fair admission fees, midway rides and food would have cost significantly less in 1938, a typical family back then would have earned significantly less. The per capita income was about $350 a year, Hendricks says, and the new federal minimum hourly wage was 25 cents. Each year since then the State Fair has tried to bring new and interesting things to visitors. This year, it is soaring to new heights – some 65 feet in height to be precise.

That’s the high point of the Comet II, the newest ride on the State Fair midway.

The roller coaster features two 75-degree drops, hairpin turns and speeds of up to 65 mph. The white-knuckle ride lasts 90 seconds.

The Comet II is the largest portable steel roller coaster of its kind in the northern hemisphere, and one of only two in the world (the other is in Europe), says Michael Henningsen, media and communications director for Expo New Mexico. The roller coaster requires 10 semi-tractor-trailers to transport the disassembled components, and it takes two weeks to set up, Henningsen says.

Variety is not only evident on the midway; visitors strolling the fairgrounds will find plenty in the exhibits, livestock and horse shows, live entertainment, food, car shows and horse racing events.

Oh, and don’t forget the rodeo, held Sept. 18-21 in Tingley Coliseum.

Among the events sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association will be bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding. A live concert caps each night of the rodeo.

In fact, live music will be featured each day of the fair at the African-American Pavilion, Villa Hispana, Indian Village and the State Fair Pavilion.

Be certain to check out the Spectaculars, featured entertainment, shows and attractions at various fairground locations.

Look for a multi-dimensional enchanted forest laser adventure; birds of the world and wolves of the world presentations; a petting zoo with camel rides; a show by Cirque Equinox involving more than 600 costumes, hats, masks and props from all over the world; a drum troupe that uses unusual items to pound out a beat; a Chinese acrobatic troupe; and thrill rides, including a slingshot that launches people 240 feet into the air and a 300-foot-long zipline.

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