Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
The New Mexico State Fair, billed as “the biggest show in New
Mexico,” begins its 11-day run today with a new midway, first-time competitions and acres of traditional exhibits and events.
“The fair has become what it’s supposed to be – a family event,” said Dan Mourning, general manager at the Expo New Mexico fairgrounds. “If you’re 8 months old or 80 years old, there’s something out here for you to do. That’s what’s unique about the fair. It’s the same concept every year, but there’s always something new.”
Among those new things at the 78th annual State Fair is the carnival midway, which, for the first time in more than a decade, has a new operator – Florida-based Reithoffer Shows Inc.
“We want to make a really good impression for the people of New Mexico. We want them to know there’s a new guy in town,” said carnival manager Rick Reithoffer, who won a four-year contract to operate the fair’s midway. “We want them to leave here saying, ‘That’s the best fair I’ve ever been to.’ And next year I’m going to wow them even more.”
Reithoffer Shows, a 119-year-old, family-owned business, replaces Oklahoma-based Murphy Bros. Expositions, which had held the fair contract for 27 of the past 30 years.
Reithoffer showed up nearly a month early, in part to set up the Galaxy, a brand-new roller coaster just shipped in from Europe that will make its debut at the fair. The midway will have nearly 50 rides.
During a quick tour of the rising midway, Reithoffer pointed with pride to several rides, including the vintage Grand Carousel.
“Most traveling carousels are 36 feet in diameter and have 30 horses,” he said. “Our Grand Carousel is 60 feet in diameter and has 60 horses, and they’re exact replicas of the Old World hand-carved carousels.”
Another new ride, called Air Raid, is the only traveling ride of its kind, he said. It simulates an aerobatic plane ride, complete with barrel rolls.
Reithoffer’s Super Himalaya features a state-of-the-art sound system and 13,700 LED lights. “This is probably the prettiest ride in the U.S.,” Reithoffer said.
In fact, Reithoffer Shows has been a leading adopter of LED lighting, which not only conserves energy but creates a kaleidoscope of nighttime color. The midway also features a ticketless smart-card system pioneered by Reithoffer.
Also new this year is New Mexico State Fair Beer, a cream ale brewed exclusively for the fair by local brewer La Cumbre Brewing. The new brew, created in partnership with the NM Brewers Guild, will be available at the fair’s beer gardens set up throughout the 236-acre fairgrounds.
As usual, free entertainment can be found throughout the fairgrounds, with several acts making their State Fair debut.
Sea Lion Encounters features four rescued sea lions cared for by Jennifer Zelig, Ph.D., director of special programs training and research at California State University, a leading teaching aquarium.
Cool Dogs Jump is, well, cool dogs jumping. The show features world champion Frisbee-catching dogs and other canines performing jaw-dropping stunts.
The ever-popular Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos and concerts return to Tingley Coliseum, as does the Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge. But this year, there’s a free PRCA rodeo on Tuesday, and a new Chicharron Challenge set for that same day in the Ag Building courtyard.
And, of course, there are plenty of animal, culinary, art and equestrian competitions.
“As always, the New Mexico State Fair is the best entertainment value in the state,” Mourning said. “You can’t see all there is to see and do all there is to do in a day – and a lot of it is free.”
2015 NM State Fair: Sept. 10-20
For schedule, special admission and carnival prices, go to www.exponm.com.
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Adults (ages 12-64): $10
Seniors (ages 65 and up): $7
Children (ages 6-11): $7 Ages 5 and under: Free
PARKING: Free parking in the racetrack infield through Gate 8, off Louisiana NE.
Preferred parking – $10 and $20 through Gate 1, off Central NE.
Bicyclists can check their bikes for free at Gate 4, off San Pedro NE.