Sept. 6 marked the first day of the 80th annual New Mexico State Fair at Expo New Mexico. Visitors were immediately greeted with the sights and smells of fair foods and brightly lit carnival rides as they walked through the entrance.

Vendors lined the main street of the fair as their displays enticed people to look at their homemade goods, from t-shirts to custom wood-burned signs. Some vendors even prompted people with a challenge of physical strength.

UNM professor Jonathan Eldredge was in attendance on the fair’s opening day and was accompanied by his daughter Gabriela. The two have had a father-daughter tradition of attending the fair every year since Gabriela was a child.

“When she was little we’d come like five different times,” Eldredge said.

Some of their favorite attractions were strolling through the art pavilion and grabbing a slice of rhubarb pie from the Asbury Café. This year Professor Eldredge entered the historical category in the creative arts competition and won first prize for his submissions, one of them being his grandfather’s World War I diary.

The two not only enjoy the arts, but also the unusual musical acts they get to see perform, they said.

“Sometimes there’s some really interesting groups out here,” Eldredge said. “I’m exposed to music groups I’ve never heard before.”

At the west entrance of the fair is the petting zoo where adults and children alike are invited to interact with pygmy goats, wallabies and llamas. Volunteers warn people as they go in to hold on to their belongings so wandering animals do not chew on loose articles of clothing.

Other fair attractions include the carnival rides provided by Reithoffer Shows. The Reithoffer Company travels the country to provide attractions to different state fairs. One of their popular amusements are caricature drawings. Caricature artists are supposed to emphasize the physical features of their subject to an absurd degree.

“When you notice somebody you notice something that’s different about them,” caricature artist Brittany Arnold said. “Sometimes it’s their smile. Sometimes it’s the way their hair is. It really just depends on the person in the chair at the time.”

Arnold started drawing caricatures as an after-school job at the Legoland resort in Florida. She has since been perfecting her art over the past four years, and began traveling with Reithoffer last year. On average it will take Arnold three minutes to complete a single black and white drawing or five minutes if it is in color.

“At a certain point you have a lot of muscle memory built up,” Arnold said. “It’s all interpretive art anyway... a lot of the stuff that we do is very basic strokes.”

The New Mexico State Fair will be going on until Sept. 16. Every day of the fair will feature different themes on Main Street and have a wide variety of attractions and entertainment. More general information on the fair can be found at

Justine Lopez is a culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @justine_lopez95.