A vaccine mandate fractures a state fair, leaving children as "pawns"

Down from the New Mexico State Fair’s glittery midway, and past the stands selling funnel cakes and turkey legs, the barns that are typically packed with animals entered in the state’s premiere youth livestock contest were quiet. Resting in pens were a sleepy pig and a few sheep there only for display, not awards.

About 200 miles southeast, hundreds of children instead gathered at a fairground with no rides and few spectators to show more than a thousand cows, pigs, sheep and goats in open-sided barns. It was an alternative livestock show quickly thrown together after families decided to boycott the state fair over a requirement that everyone over age 12 show proof of coronavirus vaccination, test or exemption to enter…

Bennett said he spends as much as $30,000 a year on vaccines for his cattle, giving him special insight into the value of immunization. He said that he and his whole family have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, a disease he said he knew was dangerous.

But the fair’s rules on vaccination did not sit well with him. The mandate — coming just weeks before the fair and one of its highlights, the youth livestock circuit — was crushing for unvaccinated kids who spent hours a day for as long as a year raising their animals, he said. Like some others at the expo, Bennett said his family did not want to attend if everyone could not go.

“I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish there,” Bennett said. “But it sure didn’t look good to rural New Mexico.”