Freedom New Mexico: Eric Butler Portales’ Carol Calderon, 38, and her 9-year-old son Gerardo pause while setting up a booth at the Home Arts Building for the annual Roosevelt County Fair. Calderon is the county extension office’s manager for the Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition program.
By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico
Whatever new-fangled innovations might be present in the exhibits or on the midway, the Roosevelt County Fair is like many other county fairs across the nation: a bastion of tradition.
On entry day in Portales, when local residents officially enter livestock, food, crafts and more for competition, the vanguard of the past was there to preserve the old ways.
“My grandmother raised me, and she quilted. I can remember her cutting little triangles out of a Cheerios box and thinking, ‘Well, that’s kind of neat, but I don’t think I’ll do it,” said Elizabeth Lawrence of Portales. “You get cardboard and use them to put all these pieces together.”
Lawrence changed her mind about quilting five years ago at the age of 60. And it has turned into quite a time-consuming spare-time occupation — sometimes lasting all day.
On Tuesday, in the Home Arts building, Lawrence was hard at work finishing a piece she had started only the night before.
“Quilting is something I thought I might like to do just as an expression of my creativity,” she said. “It’s not like you can live off it, though, because with the money I make from quilting I go buy more fabric.”
Although new innovations in equipment have made the quilting process easier, and got her interested in her grandmother’s hobby, Lawrence said most of the entries were submitted by people her age — or older.
“This vest here was made by someone who is probably 22 or 23 years old,” Lawrence said. “But most of these things have been made by women who are 50-plus.”
Other portions of the fairgrounds told a similar tale.
Some areas of competition, livestock and horticulture most notably, certainly had their share of entries from young and old alike.
But not at the food preservation judging tables, where the competition is dominated by an older generation.
And at least three longtime annual contributors, for various reasons, decided not to enter anything for the 2009 Roosevelt County Fair.
“We’ve got quite a few so far, but those (absences) will leave quite a hole,” said Glenda Anthony, one of those in charge of accepting entries.
“And Lillie Belle (Toombs) was a perfectionist,” said Anthony of one woman, now in her 90s, who usually provided a plethora of products.
Jackie Madrid, 27, was also on hand to help register the preserved foods.
“I am actually interested in a lot of it, like dehydration — I just got a dehydrator. But as far as the canning, I think from my generation’s perspective, it is kind of a dying art,” Madrid said. “I mean, my mom is the only one who does it. None of my sisters do any canning.”
Still, it was hard for her not to admire some of what her elders had preserved.
“It stays sealed. They (judges) look at color, uniformity,” Madrid said. “I wish we could open some of these up and taste them, but then they might go bad.”