Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES--Fairs and fall harvest festivals have been around since biblical times. Today's events are elaborate and require months of planning, something fair board members from across the state learned about recently at a leadership training conference in Albuquerque.
"Many fair boards feel they face unique problems--especially with setting goals and managing volunteers," said Roberta Rios, conference planner and Rio Arriba County program coordinator with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "By attending the conference, they were able to meet others who share the same difficulties."
Twenty-two counties were represented at the conference, hosted by the Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project, a Kellogg-funded project that supports educational agriculture programs in north-central New Mexico.
In addition to strategic planning and evaluation, participants learned new fund-raising techniques and the importance of marketing their events.
"Money is a concern for most fairs," Rios said. "The fair board members were anxious to discover new find-raising methods that would help them host quality fairs."
Board members were encouraged to develop a positive image for their fairs by attracting family-friendly activities and promoting the events through the media. Vendors selling ribbons, trophies and other awards were invited to exhibit their products during the conference. The afternoon concluded with talk of forming a statewide association for county fairs.
"We had planned to leave it open-ended and ask participants themselves about where they wanted to go from here," Rios said. "A lot of them felt that there is a definite need for some kind of a state organization that could help voice concerns about county fairs on up to the state fair, and possibly help with financial advice and insurance issues."
Fair board members interested in joining a statewide organization can contact Rios at (505)753-3405 or Gabe Jacquez, executive director of the Southern New Mexico Fair and Rodeo, at (505)524-8612.
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