Woman enjoys state fair year after year

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San Antonio born Mary Olin Harrell has been going to the New Mexico State Fair for 74 years, from the very beginning of the current event.

The 89-year-old Harrell first experienced the fair in 1938 as a drum majorette in the Albuquerque High School band.

"It was a good thing to be in," she said.

She was hoping to make the fair this week but may be stopped by a cold she has picked up.

"I don't feel good today," she said Monday. "But I don't want to miss it."

In 1965 Herrell helped found the statewide beautification and recycling organization Keep New Mexico Beautiful with Eunice Kalloch. Herrell also created the idea of "Dusty Roadrunner," KNMB's broom-pushing mascot. Her friend Jean Rankin did the artistic rendering. In 1969 Dusty was declared the official New Mexico State clean-up mascot by House Memorial 13.

For 30 years, Herrell served as executive director for KNMB. For her years of dedication and hard work she received the prestigious Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson Award from Keep America Beautiful in 1993.

Although her family moved from San Antonio when she was but a year old, Harrell appreciates the town as part of her continuous love affair with the Land of Enchantment.

She continues to go to the state fair just because she likes it, she said.

"I like the flowers and the food at the Indian Village and the caramel apples, and a piece of pie from the Asbury Cafe," she said.

She has entered her share of events, as well. She won a first prize with her tuberous begonias and has taken ribbons for peach jam and squash entries.

Harrell is hoping to feel well enough this week to accompany her granddaughter, one of five, to the fair.

The 2012 New Mexico State Fair runs through Sunday, Sept. 23, in Albuquerque.