ALBUQUERQUE - There was a "secret," early start to the New Mexico State Fair this year.
I know - I was there.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the night before the State Fair officially opened, I was "cordially invited" to attend the “Evening of the Arts” program, which included a “Presentation of Artist Awards” ceremony, light hors d' oeuvres (food to die for), and the start of the Gallery Art Sales.
I paid particular attention to the awards, curious about the participation and competitiveness of our artists from Cibola County.
There were seven main categories in which artists could enter: Fine Art, Hispanic, Native-American, African-American, Non-Professional, Youth, and Photography.
It didn't take me long to recognize some of the names of county artists on the winning ribbons.
From a list of award-winning artists at the 2012 New Mexico State Fair, 24 artists from our county, spanning the area from Zuni to To'Hajiilee, won recognition for their outstanding art.
And the competition, it seemed to me, rivaled the Super Bowl, World Series, Wimbledon, and the Olympics.
Michael Lewis, the only area artist winning in the Fine Arts’ category, confirmed my sense of the intensity involved.
"The State Fair is one of the most competitive art shows of the year,” he stated. "I've heard that an estimated 250,000 people go through the gallery in a week," which would get any artist's attention.
And I did notice a line of people purchasing art at one of the checkout counters on Tuesday night.
When asked how he felt about receiving his award, Lewis added, "I'm grateful for the recognition, and I'm always happy to represent our area."
Kabu, from Grants, won “Best of Show” in the African-American category, and with his wife, Maika, won several other awards as well.
"We don't go into it to win," explained Kabu. "We want to participate; to satisfy our artistic desires, and to inspire other artists." He also pointed out that his African-American art offers something different to patrons besides the more traditional Southwestern art.
Within the seven main categories, there are more specific sub-categories such as paintings, textiles, ceramics, metal-working.
Kristian Chee, from New Laguna, won two first-place awards, a second-place, and a third-place ribbon for her beadwork applied to pottery, clothing, earrings, and a cane.
Ever hear of the Trifecta – from horse racing?
I would say Mallery Quetawki, of Zuni, whose art earned a first-place, a second-place, a third-place, and Honorable Mention awards, achieved the art-equivalent of the Trifecta.
There were no winners from Cibola County in the Photography, Youth and Non-Professional categories.
Fellow county residents, are you inspired to dust off your cameras?
Buy your children art supplies for Christmas?
Take art classes?
I'll be looking for your entries at the New Mexico State Fair in 2013.