Film/Television Editor Devin D. O'Leary served as film/television editor at Weekly Alibi for 28 years. He wrote and produced four feature films here in New Mexico and has been the booker/host of Midnight Movie Madness screenings at Guild Cinema for 13 years.

As our state does its best to make its way back to “normal” (a word which may forever remain in quotes), the return of the New Mexico State Fair marks a welcome moment of progress. Last year’s fair—with its horse barns, vegetable displays and crowded midway—had to be cancelled in the interest of public health. But this year, thanks to the COVID vaccine, businesses are open and events are happening (with certain protocols, of course). Don’t worry … you’re allowed to remove your mask when chomping on a corn dog.

The Protocols

Under a public health order issued in mid-August by the State of New Mexico, vaccinations are required to attend the 2021 State Fair. All persons eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine must show proof of being fully vaccinated to enter the grounds at EXPO New Mexico. A standard vaccine card, screenshots from New Mexico Health and CDC paperwork are considered acceptable proof. If you have a “legitimate exemption” from taking the vaccine, you must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours of entering the fairgrounds. According to a press release issued by the governor, the policy is intended “to ensure the safety of fair-goers, including and particularly children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.” Some 30 additional workers were hired by the fair to do vaccine screenings.

In accordance with current public health orders, masks are required in all indoor venues. While masks are not required outdoors, wearing a face covering in areas where social distancing will be a challenge is “highly recommended.”

The Highlights

The State Fair’s post-rodeo concerts are always a highlight, and this year’s lineup features some diverse artists. On Sept. 10 it’s country music siblings The Band Perry. On Sept. 11 it’s pop country singer Walker Hayes. Sept. 12 welcomes Mexican-American superstar Pepe Aguilar’s Jaripeo Sin Fronteras 2021 tour. On Sept. 17 ’90s college radio stars Goo-Goo Dolls make an appearance. Concerts close out on Sept 16 with country music singer-songwriter Chris Janson.

In addition to all the tempting fried foods for sale alongside the midway, the fair features several popular cooking competitions. The Battle of the Salsas is Saturday, Sept. 11 at 1pm in the Agriculture Building courtyard. This contest has become a long-standing tradition at the fair. The first 150 people in attendance will serve as judges. The New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge takes place on Monday, Sept. 13 at noon in the Ag Building Courtyard. This contest sees some of New Mexico’s most renowned restaurants go head-to-head in a fiery food match-up.

And if you’re looking for something to wash down all that tasty fair food, you should know that this year features an official State Fair beer. Blue Corn Lager is produced in collaboration with Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery, which selected New Mexico blue corn from Santa Ana Pueblo as the backbone ingredient. The lager is exclusively available at Expo New Mexico during the run of the fair.

The Deets

The State Fair runs Sept. 9 through 19. Hours are 10am to 9pm Sun. through Thu. and 10am to 10pm Fri. through Sat. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (65 and up) and $8 for children (ages 5 to 12). Rodeo/concert tickets and midway ride tickets are an additional cost. For more info, including full daily schedules, go to