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State Fair Days May Be Fewer

Visitors to the New Mexico State Fair in 2011 ride on the Spin Out.
Visitors to the New Mexico State Fair in 2011 ride on the Spin Out.
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexicans traditionally have had three weekends to enjoy the State Fair; this year they may only have two weekends to get their turkey leg fix.

Closing the fair on Mondays and Tuesdays for the past couple of years to save money didn’t work, and fair officials are considering shortening what had formerly been a 17-day event to 12 consecutive days.

“The dark days obviously were a failure,” interim general manager Dan Mourning told State Fair commissioners Monday during their first meeting of 2012.

Because of that, Mourning said, fair officials are considering having this year’s fair run from the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept. 23.

Traditionally the fair has started on a Friday and been open for 17 days, which carried it through three weekends in September.

In 2010, citing the need to reduce costs, the governor-appointed commission voted to close the State Fair on Mondays and Tuesdays — historically the two least-attended days of the 17-day event. Fair commissioners extended the Monday-Tuesday closings last year.

“The initial reason for those dark days was that they were going to save money by not being open,” Mourning said.

However, because some fair-related livestock events were taking place on those “dark” days, the fair still had to pay some expenses — like security and utilities — even though the rest of the fair was shut down and generating no revenues.

“The reality is, we didn’t save any money because … expenses were still being generated,” Mourning said.

As a state enterprise, the 236-acre Expo New Mexico fairgrounds must pay its own way. Fair officials have said the State Fair accounts for about one-third of Expo’s annual revenues. Though the Legislature does not fund Expo, it gives Expo capital outlay money to maintain and improve the facilities.

Total attendance at the 2011 State Fair was 399,529, a 7.1 percent drop from the previous year’s attendance. Revenues were about $5.5 million — a 9.6 percent decrease from 2010.

Attendance fell 12.4 percent at the 2010 fair, which was the fair’s lowest attendance since 2003, but revenues grew by 14.6 percent to about $6.2 million. Mourning has recently said Expo is operating at a loss of about $2 million.

The seven-member State Fair Commission will vote on 2012 State Fair dates later this year.

Also at Monday’s meeting, on 4-3 votes the commission elected Larry Kennedy of Albuquerque as chairman and Kenneth “Twister” Smith of Caballo as secretary-treasurer.

The panel also postponed action on a proposed “rules of procedure” governing the conduct of commission meetings. Kennedy, who said he drafted the rules with Expo attorney Mark Shoesmith, suggested commissioners — who first saw the rules three days earlier — approve them so a 30-day public comment period could begin.

When several of the commissioners questioned provisions of the rules, such as how they can get items included in meeting agendas, the commission voted to take them up after having more time to vet and possibly amend them at their March 5 meeting.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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