By S. Derrickson Moore
Ladies and gentlemen, y todos los niños, get out those maracas, dust off your sombreros and Carmen Miranda hats, unfurl your folklorico skirts, shine your dress boots and gently buff your turquoise and silver squash blossom necklaces.
We’re heading into Full-Tilt Fiesta Season (FTFS).
It’s hard to believe that this will be my 16th Las Cruces FTFS, proof positive that time flies when you’re having fun.
And apparently we all are. Fiesta spirit seems to endure even after the hits of recent years, which have included floods, droughts, fires, those explosive gas price hikes and more recent economic woes.
It’s true that the Hillsboro Apple Festival called it quits, but like many artistic endeavors, including art galleries, the tendency has been to regroup and reopen. Faced with a quixotic local apple crop and time slot jammed with festivals, the town simply decided to funnel that energy into other events during less crowded times of the year.
Of course, finding that kind of time period is getting increasingly tough. There are still a few fiesta dead zones here and there, in the most oppressive heat of summer after Fourth of July blow outs and during a post-holiday fiesta burnout period the first of each year.
But right now, we’re heading into prime time of FTFS, which starts not with a bang or a whimper, but a quack, at this weekend’s Great American Duck Races in Deming. Las Cruces is upping the ante with another early entry in the FTFS sweepstakes, the brand new MainStreet SalsaFest from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. next Saturday, along Main Street between Las Cruces Avenue and Griggs Street. Hopefully, it will help encourage local fiesta fans to follow the migration of one of our longest-running weekly sources of community fun, the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market, as it moves to a new location in that block.
From then on, we’ll be pretty much going full-tilt through New Year’s. Labor Day weekend attractions include the New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival, Hatch Chile Festival, Franciscan Festival of the Arts and many other regional attractions (see today’s SunLife feature).
Tour galleries, meet artists and see their latest wok at the Doña Arts Council Arts Hop Sept. 11. Then it’s on to Fort Selden Frontier Days, and the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Festival in Mesilla, both on Sept. 12 and 13, the White Sands Balloon Invitational Sept. 19 and 20, The Whole Enchilada Festival Sept. 25 through 27, and the Southern New Mexico State Fair and Rodeo Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.
Fiesta planners have adopted a new strategy and in October we won’t have to try to cram all that wine and song into just one weekend. This year, the Mesilla Jazz Happening will be Oct. 3 and 4 at the Mercado Plaza and the Mesilla Plaza, and the La Viña Wine Festival will be Oct. 10 and 11.
Deadheads and RenFaire fans get the same kind of break this year, since two of our most popular celebrations don’t fall on the same weekend.
But you may be able to multipurpose your Halloween costume — especially if you’re an angel or a calavera (skeleton)— for Dias de los Muertos celebrations around Las Cruces and from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 on Mesilla’s Plaza.
November highlights include what’s billed as southern New Mexico’s largest cultural event, the Doña Ana Art’s Council’s Renaissance ArtsFaire Nov. 7 and 8 and the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference Nov. 13 through 15, which includes concerts, a Mariachi Mass and the Parque Festival.
December is packed with festive and spiritual celebrations, pageants and festivals, some with historic roots that stretch back centuries. The Tortugas Pueblo invites the community for events that include a pilgrimage up A Mountain, dancing ceremonies and a traditional albondigas feast during their Virgen de Guadalupe Festival, always held Dec. 10, 11 and 12. There are traditional luminaria displays at NMSU and Doña Ana Plaza, and the Christmas Eve lumniarias and carols on Mesilla’s Plaza.
There are holiday concerts, church events, bazaars and bake sales, holiday Downtown Rambles and lots more.
And there are always a few fiesta surprises, I noted again when I was writing about the 2009 Great America Duck Race for today’s feature.
This year the GADR surprises were, like God, found in the details. On the entertainment roster, I discovered a performance described as “Honky Tonk Gospel,” a musical genre new to me, plus an appearance by “the Deming Varsity Mariachi Group Amistad, under the direction of Albert Valverde.”
Having arrived here just in time for the birth of the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to now be able to say that I live in a state where mariachi is a varsity sport. I’ve been musing ever since about what a mariachi varsity letter sweater would look like. I know I want one.
¡Viva Full-Tilt Fiesta Season!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at email@example.com