San Juan County Fair is an annual tradition for many locals

Hannah Grover
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — When TJ Richards started attending the San Juan County Fair in 1973, the majority of the animals were in a single barn.

"We've added on and made it better," said Richards, who is now the fair board secretary.

Over the years, the San Juan County Fair has seen many changes in attractions and competitions.

But it consistently attracts hundreds of participants, many of whom come back yearly and camp during fair week. This year, about 150 families have arranged to stay in RVs at the fair grounds.

The fair starts Monday and will run through Saturday.

Richards is in charge of organizing the RV camping and she usually knows in advance which campsite each family wants. By Thursday afternoon, about a dozen families had already set up their RVs.

The attitudes the contestants have about showing has also changed since Richards was showing dairy cows and pigs as a child.

She said one thing people nowadays do not understand is that participants used to buy livestock locally and for much less money, although inflation accounts for some of the difference.

"You didn't go out of state and spend $3,000 for a lamb," she said. Instead, people often bought the lambs for $50.

"You made that $50 lamb the best it could be," Richards said.

Many other board members have been actively participating in the fair for decades.

David Stark started showing poultry at the fair about 45 years ago when he was seven. He joined the 4-H Club two years later and hasn't missed a San Juan County Fair since then.

He remembers showing his chickens in the building that now houses the jockey shack for the race track, which, at the time, was near the front entrance of the fair.

Stark soon got his friend, Billy Huish, into 4-H. Huish started showing rabbits and is now the fair board president.

When the friends were in high school, Stark became the department head of the poultry barn and Huish became department head of the rabbits.

Since he began showing, Huish said there have been changes in facilities, animals and the carnival.

When he first started attending the fair, the carnival consisted of six rides. Now dozens of rides fill a large parking lot at McGee Park.

Huish said his favorite county fair event is the poultry.

"Poultry amazes me," Huish said. "You can take this little egg," put it in an incubation box and "a little bird pops out of it."

Huish and Stark have passed their love of the fair on to the next generation as well. Huish's nephews show poultry. Stark's children also show animals.

In 2005, Stark's oldest daughter, Courtney, had the grand champion steer.

"That was probably one of the happiest days of my life," Stark said.

He said she had tried for years to win the prize and had some really tough competition. A decade later, she still has the ribbon and trophy she won.

"That's a shrine," David Stark said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.