State Fair Returns After Pandemic Hiatus But Attendance Down

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Attendance at this year's New Mexico State Fair dropped by about two-fifths from the 2019 fair, the last before the 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic.

State Fair General Manager Dan Mourning said Friday that 275,467 people attended the nine-day event from Sept. 9-19, a 41.6% decrease from the 2019 fair, which drew 472,415 visitors.

Revenue figures weren't available yet but it's likely the 2021 fair's decreased attendance generated less than the 2019 fair's revenue figure of over $5 million, he said.

The fair for 2021 instituted health safety requirements that included requiring people to show a COVID-19 vaccination card in order to enter and to wear a mask in all indoor spaces.

The restrictions led to the fair’s cancelation of the usually well-attended New Mexico Youth Livestock Expo after most of the parents of exhibitors said they would not attend.

Mourning said 425 exhibitors were originally scheduled to participate, but only 20 indicated they'd still participate after the mandates were announced.

“We couldn’t do it with just 20 people,” Mourning said. “That’s not putting on a show.”

Instead, the youth exhibitors participated in a show on private property in Roswell without the requirements.

The fair was still a success, Mourning said.

“A pleasant surprise for us was that people were spending money, the vendors and concessionaires that came out here made money,” Mourning said.

And the people attending the fair “had an amazing experience," Mourning said. “They were back out among their neighbors and in a safe environment.”

New Mexico on Friday extended its mask mandate for indoor spaces across the state, citing persistently high levels of community spread.

In extending the mask mandate, state health officials said the goal was to reduce pressure on the health care system.

A separate public health order requiring health care workers to be vaccinated remains in place. School workers also are required to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.