Lovington is one of New Mexico’s first planned communities. In the spring of 1908, Robert Florence Love deeded portions of his homestead to be subdivided into lots for the formation of a town. His brother, James B. Love—seeing a need to supply basic ranch supplies only available to local families from the distant towns of Lubbock, Midland and Roswell—opened a general store in September 1908. He became the postmaster of the new village of Lovington.
By 1911, Lovington had established a phone company, public utilities, banks, a hotel, a newspaper (still in existence) and a progressive school system with one of the first high schools on the High Plains. In 1917, Lovington, with more than 600 people, was the largest town in the newly formed Lea County and the natural choice to be designated as the county seat. Little did the Love brothers know when they decided to give up the open-range cowboy life and settle on the high plains of the Llano Estacado that the community they envisioned would, 100 years later, be a thriving city of 10,000 residents.
Today, Lovington’s economy is based on farming, ranching, the oil and gas industry and an increasingly robust dairy industry. Continuing its tradition of placing emphasis on education, Lovington has an excellent school system. Lovington High School has the only state-of-the-art Vision Quest Technology Center in New Mexico.
Nor-Lea Hospital District, rated one of the best rural hospitals in the area, offers several multi-specialty clinics, comprehensive outpatient services, a full-service hospital, home health, hospice and home medical services. In addition, the Bill McKibben Senior Center is a modern, up-to-date facility with a variety of programs and planned events geared toward Lovington’s active senior community.
One of the county’s most celebrated destinations is the Lea County Museum, located in Lovington on the town square, across the street from the courthouse. Entering one of the museum’s many buildings is like stepping back in time a century ago, when Lovington was just beginning to be a town and New Mexico was not yet a state. The history and art exhibits at the museum tell stories of early ranchers, the first homesteaders and the rainbow of different ethnic and national groups who came to make their homes in Lea County.
Lovington has six public parks, the largest of which is the 80-acre Chaparral Park. It is one of the prettiest parks in Lea County and offers fishing on its 11-acre lake. It also sports playground equipment, jogging/exercise trails, tennis courts and picnic shelters. A public swimming pool opened in the summer of 2008. Every Fourth of July, the park hosts “The World’s Greatest Lizard Race,” an event that has gained international recognition. Each year, contestants enter more than 100 lizards to see which will be the champion.
The Lea County Fair and Rodeo, the largest county fair in the state, takes place every August at the Lea County Fairgrounds outside of Lovington. The rodeo is a PCRA-sanctioned event and attracts top-ranked participants from all over the United States. Lea County is known for its championship ropers, all of whom honed their skills at this event.
The first weekend in November sees crafters gather at the Lea County Fairgrounds for the Annual Arts and Crafts Fall Festival, a two-day event with more than 100 vendors. For the last 22 years, Lovington has kicked off the Christmas season with the Electric Light Parade. Children and adults from all over the county come to view this beautiful nighttime celebration as it lights up Main Street.
In 2007, Lovington was designated a Main Street start-up community, which ensures that Lovington’s downtown will continue to grow and be revitalized through restoration and preservation projects. One of Lovington’s most successful preservation projects is the Pyburn House Bed & Breakfast. Originally built in 1935 for the superintendent of schools, it was later used as a boarding house for women teachers. Designated as a National Historical site, today it is considered one of the premier B&Bs in the state and has been showcased in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
The people of Lovington are hospitable, unpretentious and down-to-earth, and with the city motto “Make It Happen,” the pioneer spirit that helped forge this city on the high plains still prevails.