Expo NM improves beer gardens

The Bucking Bar, one of two new beer gardens at this year’s State Fair, awaits people entering or leaving the rodeos and concerts at Tingley Coliseum. Fairgoers can visit five beer gardens at the fair this year – two more than last year.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Besides the usual attractions at the New Mexico State Fair, fairgoers looking for a cool brew have two new watering holes this year where they can slake their thirst. Fair officials hope the additions will translate to additional revenues.

For years, the fair has had three beer gardens clustered around

the southern end of Expo New Mexico’s Main Street. This year, The Stables Lounge, at the north end of Main Street, and The Bucking Bar, near the entrance of Tingley Coliseum, will address two concerns addressed by past fairgoers, said Expo general manager Dan Mourning.

“Last year we had some people on the north end of the fairgrounds saying they had to go too far to get a beer, and they didn’t want to leave their kids that long,” Mourning said Wednesday during a quick, rainy tour of the venues. Many of the fair’s livestock shows and agricultural events take place at that end of the fairgrounds, he said, and it was a long walk to the beer gardens.

The Bucking Bar, he said, will be convenient for people attending the rodeos and concerts inside Tingley Coliseum.

“People coming in or out of the rodeo can come over here to relax, meet the cowboys and do a little dancing,” Mourning said. “We know that if we get people to spend more time at the fair, they’ll spend a little money – which helps the vendors and helps us.”

Mourning said he and his staff are working hard to return the State Fair rodeos to their heydays when they were not-to-be-missed events on the professional rodeo circuit.

A comfy lounge just a rope’s throw from Tingley’s door should help that effort, he said.

And comfort is important, he said.

“If I’m going to have a beer, I want to be comfortable,” Mourning said. So the fair upgraded all five beer gardens with cushioned outdoor furniture, fire pits, live music – even big-screen televisions at some of them.

“The biggest reason we did that (adding the two new lounges) was convenience for fairgoers,” he said. “I don’t know yet whether we’ll make any additional revenue, but we would hope so.”

Jim Schumacher, owner of The Cooperage restaurant and the vendor handling the beer and liquor contract for the State Fair, said that – like the fair in general – sales are heavily dependent on the weather, which took a turn on Wednesday as remnants of Hurricane Odile pumped a lot of rain into New Mexico. The last day of the fair is Sunday.

Pricing, vendor vigilance and the constant presence of law enforcement officers should keep any alcohol-related problems to a minimum, Mourning said. Surveys Expo conducts during the fair include questions about the beer gardens, and will determine whether the five-garden arrangement continues next year, he said.

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