Close to Home: Checking out the State Fair

I really look forward to this time of year—especially the smell of roasting green chile, harvest festivals and fall food like chile, piñon, posole and chicos. And of course fair time. Because autumn is practically here, we found ourselves at the State Fair this week for the travel feature.

The State Fair is a big event for New Mexico as a rural and very agricultural state, where competitors showcase their talents in Albuquerque. All of the state’s counties gather to show off the year’s work. As a native New Mexican, I have been going to the fair since I was a kid, but I haven’t been in many years and neither has Dustin.

We both generally avoid places where large crowds gather but this travel feature has helped us to make some exceptions and this is one of them. If you are a native, then you know that the traffic around the fairgrounds is a nightmare. However, the charm—and for me the nostalgia—of the fair make the crowds, traffic, walking and noise worth it.

At the State Fair. Photo by Dustin Lombardi.

The midway lights up at night and sets an idyllic scene with the neon lights of the rides sitting next to Route 66. Anyone who has been in Albuquerque at night in September and on Central Avenue has seen what I am talking about.

As usual, I had Dustin calculate our gas and admission before we left. Albuquerque is about half an hour away from Edgewood and he determined we would only need about 2 gallons of gas to get to and from, which cost about $6.

The admission to the fair is $10 for general admission and this year we had to pay the adult rate for Dustin as well. Combined we cost $20 just to walk onto the fairgrounds. This left us with a food budget of $24.

I always avoid parking on the fairgrounds because it is quite expensive and the place is so big it doesn’t really help with reducing the amount of walking. I am lucky enough to have a friend who lives within walking distance who has let me park at his place many times over the years. I have also successfully parked in the parking lot off of Central and San Pedro without having my car towed, booted, or upsetting the local businesses.

I also generally avoid eating at the fair, as the food is quite expensive. There are plenty of aficionados of deep-fried candy bars and the like, but Dustin has a hollow leg and we decided it would not be an appropriate place for lunch.

We spent most of our time checking out the exhibits. Dustin wanted to see the prize vegetables because they are always humongous and this year did not fail to deliver. We saw a pumpkin that was bigger than a small dog if it were curled up with its nose tucked into its hind quarters and Armenian cucumbers as big around as my thigh, if not bigger. We also spent lots of time with the animals.

Dustin and I are both animal lovers and there are tons to see at the fair. Most of the prize livestock animals stay on display for week of the fair. The only ones we missed out on seeing were rabbits and chickens.

We went midweek and aimed for the day crowd instead of the night crowd, but it was a total bust because we tried to avoid some of the crowds and we failed in that miserably.

We braved the midway hoping to jump on a ride or two but in the end the lines were long and it was hot. We decided we would rather hang out inside buildings where the air conditioners are.

We ate at a restaurant that has been in Albuquerque as long as I can remember, called the May Cafe. It’s right under this giant sculpture of a lumberjack. The sculpture is considered on of the famous landmarks of New Mexico. The May Cafe serves really tasty Vietnamese food and the menu is very reasonably priced. We were able to gorge ourselves easily with our $24 budget.

This is by far not one of the cheaper places to visit in the city but if you are clever there are many loopholes that can make visiting the State Fair an affordable and enjoyable trip.