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Visitors drawn to State Fair at night

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Every corner of the New Mexico State Fair grounds comes to life after the sun goes down.

Jesse Hillard of Albuquerque tries to climb a rickety rope ladder over an inflated slide, hoping to make it to the top and win a prize. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Jesse Hillard of Albuquerque tries to climb a rickety rope ladder over an inflated slide, hoping to make it to the top and win a prize. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Lights from two Ferris wheels reach high above the Albuquerque skyline and can be seen from blocks away, drawing in crowds even after dark.

Performances fill the sky with light and sound, including the Totonac Pole Flyers, who were illuminated by an old-Hollywood style spotlight as they took flight, spinning around a giant wooden stake in the center of Indian Village.

Luciano Muñoz punches a mechanical game designed to test the strength and patience of players at the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Luciano Muñoz punches a mechanical game designed to test the strength and patience of players at the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Music of all kinds boomed from speakers at the center of the grounds while rides boasted flashy neon lights, reflected in the eyes of awe-struck onlookers.

First time fair-goer Valenthine Lemes, 15, was especially impressed by the array of lights across the grounds.

“It’s so beautiful, I was just taking pictures of everything,” she said.

Lemes is a Brazilian exchange student and has only been in New Mexico for about two weeks.

Lorenzo Garcia carries a gigantic stuffed gorilla that he won for his nephew on opening night of the fair as he thinks about how he will fit the larger-than-life prize in his small sedan. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Lorenzo Garcia carries a gigantic stuffed gorilla that he won for his nephew on opening night of the fair as he thinks about how he will fit the larger-than-life prize in his small sedan. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“We don’t have these things in Brazil,” she said. “We have some fairs, but they are not at all like this.”

Lemes and her host family ate dinner before the fair but still snacked on funnel cakes and pickles. Her host mother, Julie Brown, waved at her daughter who was on a ride where a loop of cars spins in circles over a cattawampus track before quickly moving in reverse.

Brown said she and her family planned to spend their evening at the fair for a couple of reasons.

“It was nice that it’s cooler here in the evening,” she said. “I think that it’s nice that it’s not real packed, either.”

Totonac Pole Flyers from Veracruz, Mexico, perform under a spotlight at the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday.' (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Totonac Pole Flyers from Veracruz, Mexico, perform under a spotlight at the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday.’ (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The entire area was lit up and glowing by 9:15 p.m.

Gisela Urbina, who drove to Albuquerque from El Paso, said she couldn’t get enough of the pretty scenery.

“We took pictures during the day, and then we took some again at night and those were definitely better,” she said.

As the crowds thinned even more, the heat of the day was replaced by piping hot food coming from a makeshift food truck alley near the middle of the grounds.

Totonac Pole Flyers from Veracruz, Mexico, perform under a spotlight at the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday. The men swing around a large wooden stake, below, in the center of Indian Village. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Totonac Pole Flyers from Veracruz, Mexico, perform under a spotlight at the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday. The men swing around a large wooden stake, below, in the center of Indian Village. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Fried alligator, deep fried candy bars and cookies, mini doughnuts, and even a chocolate chip green chile cheeseburger all fought for favorites, though fair-famous staples like ribbon fries and turkey legs were equally appreciated.

The crowd thinned out as the night went on, and die-hard ride fans took advantage of the lack of lines at the Midway.

Ashli Begay took the opportunity to purchase a bucket-sized cup of lemonade.

She said she has the most fun on the rides and coming at night is the best way to avoid long wait times.

“It’s also definitely more exciting at night,” Begay said.

As the fair’s 10 p.m. closing time neared, people took their last minutes to try to score big on one of the many games dotted in between the food stands and rides.

Lorenzo Garcia carried his larger-than-life winnings on his shoulders as he and his family made a last loop of the grounds.

He won an almost 6-foot-tall fuzzy, blue gorilla at a game in which players had to delicately maneuver a metal circle down a curved and twisting wire without letting the two pieces touch.

He said the games look easy, but they’re actually pretty hard. Still, his family was holding several armfuls of prizes in varying sizes.

Karaoke singers closed out the night while belting mostly love songs as the fair started to say good night to its first day.

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