Ever-changing, Long-standing Tradition
Housed on a small, desolate plot of land just west of Old Town, the original site of what would later become the New Mexico State Fair seems modest by today's standards. More than 120 years later the New Mexico State Fair has evolved into an established, professional and celebrated business located on a 236-acre spot in the heart of Albuquerque. The years have brought about a multitude of changes for "The Biggest Show in New Mexico," including management changes, governmental changes, renovations, and name changes. Since the Fair was established long before the southwestern territory entered into statehood, the event was not identified as a state fair until 1911. Despite the changing face of the New Mexico State Fair over the years, the earliest objectives of the territorial fair have remained the same: to assemble an innovative and accessible exposition of cultural diversity, eclectic artwork, local agriculture and fun, family entertainment.
The Early Years
On October 3, 1881, the New Mexico Agricultural, Mineral and Industrial Exposition opened its doors to eager patrons and ran for five days. Despite relentless rain, the exposition was highly popular with both residents and business owners. Albuquerque businesses saw the exposition as a unique marketing tool for the territory and jumped at the opportunity to financially support an 1882 territorial fair. Early territorial fairs featured parachute jumps from hot-air balloons, lawn tennis tournaments, Indian races, Vaudeville-style shows and trapeze artists. With so many unique, intriguing attractions, the eyes of the southwest were soon focused on Albuquerque. Early fairs were also recognized for strong Native American and Hispanic influences exhibited in artwork, cuisine, and traditional dances and ceremonies. The success of early territorial fairs also garnered national attention. In 1901, the Denver News called the annual fair "the great industrial exposition and festival of the southwest." Word of New Mexico's exceptional territorial fairs reached the White House and in 1909 President William H. Taft made a visit to the fair.
The First New Mexico State Fair
New Mexico wouldn't officially become a state for a few more months, yet the 1911 fair was dubbed the "30th Annual New Mexico Carnival and State Fair." The annual event was a hit; however, the years that follow were troubled. State funds were scarce; WWI had taken its toll on New Mexico's economy. The State Fair closed its doors in 1917 and remained closed for two decades. On October 9, 1938, the first official New Mexico State Fair opened for business in a brand new, permanent location. Since that day, the New Mexico State Fair has entertained, educated, and astounded fair goers year after year. Improvements and additions have been made to the fairgrounds over time, including the construction of Tingley Coliseum in 1957.