A new statewide Youth Livestock Expo traditionally held exclusively at the New Mexico State Fair is moving to Roswell following an announcement from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that all State Fair attendees would be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

The expo will now be held as a separate event in Roswell Sept. 14-17, overlapping with the state fair. The State Fair will still reportedly also hold its own livestock shows as well for people who choose to attend. Expo New Mexico last week clarified it has not canceled or relocated any of its livestock shows and that the Roswell event is unaffiliated with the New Mexico State Fair.

The state fair runs from Sept. 9-19 in Albuquerque. The vaccine requirement, which was announced in late August, caught many people off guard and stirred up anger and disappointment among would-be fairgoers. Many participants did not want to receive the vaccine, while others worried they did not have enough time before the fair to fully complete their vaccination series, as required. Among them were many 4-H participants and Future Farmers of America members that were not yet vaccinated. 

Prior to the announcement of the new event, many people worried about the loss of revenue another year without competition would mean for these participants, while others worried about missing out on their biggest social event of the year. 

Senior Sophia Sedillo, 17, plays on her school’s softball team and also shows pigs at state and county fairs. “Sure, it’s a lot of people from a lot of different communities” coming together at the State Fair, she said, “but when we’re playing ball, we’re going week to week to different schools, different places. I mean, there’s a lot more places we could get [the virus] playing ball than showing [animals].”

Kayla Metzger, 15, is a member of her school’s Business Professionals of America organization, and has “been showing pigs since [she] could walk,” she said.

“We’re almost always three feet apart from each other, and we’re always moving,” she said of herself and her fellow competitors. “My family’s been in the livestock business for years. No New Mexico State Fair means no livestock sales.”

Though virtual livestock sales were attempted last year, said Payton Otis, who served as a judge for some of those cyber-showings, that method is no good for assessing an actual, living specimen.

“You can’t see half the things online you can see in person,” she said. “You can’t tell if they’re hiding something. They can use Photoshop. There’s no truth to online at all.”

“It’s really not a good system,” agreed Sedillo. “It doesn’t matter what your stock looks like. The person who’s going to win is whoever’s going to be able to put the most money into taking their videos and photos.”

The Livestock Expo will be held in Roswell, which has been among the most resistant counties to COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began. Currently, less than 45 percent of the county is fully vaccinated. 

Sara Werth with The Independent contributed to the report.

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