Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fiesta fun takes lots of work

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Porta-potties. Wind-resistant trash receptacles. Crowd shelters and evacuation routes in the event of thunderstorms, high winds, extreme heat and fire. Security measures. Traffic flow and control. Renaissance costumes you can wear — and work in — at high noon without getting heatstroke.
When you think “fiesta,” those probably aren’t the things that come to mind first, if at all.
Festival organizers often manage to make the best good times seem effortless, but the truth is, they’re not. It takes a village — or at least a good part of the population of smaller towns and villages — to field a great fiesta, and their efforts deserve praise and appreciation.
I know. I’ve looked at fiestas from all sides now. I’ve written newspaper and magazine features about some of our nation’s most impressive festivals throughout the United States, in Europe and the Caribbean.
Fiesta genes run in the family. I’ve planned and promoted festivals myself from Portland, Ore., to South Florida. My son has starred in gatherings with his rock bands that drew tens of thousands in large venues. And he’s gone on to handle organization, tech services, talent booking and stage management for venues that ranged from a jazz fest in Mesilla to holiday light shows and concert series in the Pacific Northwest.
Maybe that’s why our personal family gatherings tend to be on the small side, scheduled during off-season in uncrowded areas. We love fiestas, but we gave our all at the office and have the fiesta battle stories to prove it. Remember the belly dancer who lost her 8-foot python at the airport grand opening? The fiestas we had to reschedule because of hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Aughhh.
That said, I still love fiestas and I’m delighted to live in a place that produces some of the best festivals I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
It’s even more impressive when you consider that we don’t have the big budgets many considerably less entertaining cities enjoy.
In fact, volunteers have been the driving and inspirational forces behind our most spectacular fiesta success stories.
In recent years, professional events organizers and coordinators have emerged, like the crack staff at Helping Hands, along with some savvy and sophisticated nonprofit organization administrators and planners, professional caterers and experienced entertainment bookers.
Resources like the Doña Ana Arts Council, the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau and city special events coordinators in Las Cruces and Mesilla have offered advice and assistance to many fledgling events about what can be a perplexing number of issues to be considered, from venue choices to timing.
Even old fiesta hands sometimes forget to check to make sure they aren’t booking their event at the same time as several other soirees likely to draw on the same audience. Go to the LCCVB website at and check out annual and monthly events calendars before you set the date and print the posters — and remember to get your info to them (and as many calendars as possible, including ours) as soon as you commit to your fiesta timetable.
The pros help a lot, but volunteers are still the backbone of our favorite fiestas. They keep coming up with new ideas, energy and enthusiasm and the make-or-break help that can transform an event.
It’s a great deal for volunteers, too. Choose an event that interests you and you could enjoy perks that range from a free T-shirt and enchilada to a balloon ride or new friendships with kindred souls.
Festivals are a source of fun, culture and community, and also raise money for a variety of worthy causes and offer economic benefits for individual artists, vendors and our tourism industry.
We hope you have a carefree, safe, fun time at the big fiestas starting this month. Lend a hand, if you can, and take a moment to think about and thank all the volunteers and dedicated pros that make our festivals possible.
!Mil gracias y mucho gusto!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It’s Full-Tilt Fiesta Season!

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES— This year, we really need FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season).
Maybe it was the weird global weather and disasters (including unprecedented calamities like Japan’s tsunami-nuclear plant double whammy) that struck before spring even had a chance to get started. Nature’s handiwork was further aggravated by a summer of manmade (or more accurately, politician-made and triggered) political and economic shenanigans, plus riots and global governmental overthrow attempts and continuing conflicts that had most of us on edge for much of the summer.
By the time we got around to contemplating vacation and a silly summery pursuit or two, our absurdly early school year had begun … and after this summer, we wonder if we should spend the money, anyway, with worldwide famines and needy friends and relatives out of work or marginally employed.
Whatever the origins of our summer of discontent, stress and misery, it’s clear that we have been deprived of our traditional silly season this year.
We may have to abandon all hopes of escapist pursuits for Summer 2011, and move on.
Luckily, the good news is that we live in southern New Mexico, Full-tilt Fiesta Season and chile capital of the world … maybe the universe.
And the even better news is that FTFS is bigger from the get-go in 2011. It starts this week, and there will be more chile-enhanced activities than ever before to help rev up our endorphin systems, cheer us up and strengthen our will to live, dance and party hearty. We can nurture our inner fiesta animals knowing that the festivities are a boon to our economy, our relationships, and a variety of regional causes and community organizations.
Appropriately, our official 2012 New Mexico statehood centennial celebrations kick off, not in the ancient City Different (Santa Fe) nor the Duke City (Albuquerque) but where a major 100-year state fiesta should rightfully begin, at FTFS ground zero, the city of festive moods and fiesta attitudes: Las Cruces! And in our neighboring communities, too.
You’ll have to do some careful party planning to get everything in, with the Centennial’s kickoff, the Main Street Centennial SalsaFest, the White Sands International Film Festival and Deming Duck races all starting with events this next week and running through Aug. 28.
And there will be no let-up, with more big bashes over the three-day Labor Day weekend, featuring must-go fiesta choices that include the 40th Hatch Chile Festival, New Mexico Wine Harvest Wine Festival, Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts and a super-festive Downtown Ramble.
Even the always-festive Las Cruces Convention Center seems to have been jolted into a new level of FTFS hyperbolic overdrive, billing our next big fiesta periods as “Superweekend” and “Super Labor Day Weekend.”
Get in training this weekend. Stock up on therapeutic doses of chile, practice your salsa moves, and get in touch with your amigos near and far to plan some rendezvous. Prepare to celebrate surviving a tough summer with your best FTFS ever!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

(breakout on jump)
Full-Tilt Fiesta Season Highlights
For more events information, visit
Aug. 25-28: White Sands Film Fest
Aug. 25-28: Great American Duck Race
Aug. 28: Centennial ¡SalsaFest!
Sept. 3 & 4: 40th Hatch Chile Festival
Sept. 3 to 5: New Mexico Wine Harvest Wine Festival
Sept. 3 & 4: Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts
Sept. 5: Labor Day Wine Fest, Franciscan Fest
Sept. 9 to 11: Color Las Cruces: Plein Air Art Competition & Community Arts Fest Sept. 9 to 11
Sept. 10 & 11: Fort Selden Frontier Days
Sept. 11: 5,000 Flowers and other commemorations
Sept. 16 to 18: White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational
Sept. 17 & 18: Mesilla’s Diez y Seis de Septiembre
Sept. 23 to 25: The Whole Enchilada Fiesta
Sept. 27 to Oct. 2: SNM State Fair
Oct. 1 & 2: Mesilla Jazz Happening
Oct. 8: New Mexico Pumpkin Fest, Mesilla Valley Maze
Oct. 8 & 9: La Viña Harvest Fest
Oct. 27-29 NMSU Homecomng
Oct. 28 to 31, Nov. 2: Dia de Los Muertos in Mesilla, plus parade float, processions, art shows September through November.
Oct. 31: Halloween
Nov. 5 & 6: Renaissance ArtsFaire
Nov. 11: Mesilla Veteran’s Day Ceremony
Nov. 12: City of Las Cruces Veterans Day Parade
Nov. 11 to 13: Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, workshops, Student Showcase Spectacular Concert, Mariachi Mass
Nov. 12: El Tratado de La Mesilla Reenactment of 1854 of Gadsden Purchase ratification
Nov. 20: Toys for Kids Motorcycle Parade
Nov. 26 & 27: St. Genevieve Holiday Antique & Craft Show
Dec. 2 to 4: La Casa Holiday Bazaar
Dec. 2 to 18: LCCB Nutcracker
Dec: 2: 8th Annual Trail of Lights Fiesta, City Xmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 9: Mesilla Xmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 10: Fort Selden Luminaria Tour
Dec. 10 to 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta at Tortugas & St. Gen, Tortugas “A” Mountain Pilgrimage
Dec. 24: Mesilla Plaza Christmas Eve, Luminarias

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Harold’s spirit lives and grows

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Maybe it was writing about the Great American Duck Races that reminded me to bring Harold back to the newsroom last week.
“Harold” is what I christened a long-lived green amigo named in honor of Harold Cousland, our beloved editor-in-chief who departed for that great newsroom in the sky in 2001. He left shortly after rallying us to produce an “extra” edition, just hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, the only such special print edition I’ve seen in my many decades in the news biz — and almost certainly the last, in this era of instant online updates, tweets, texts and social media postings.
He went too soon, at 58, but very likely the way he would have wanted to go, with his boots on, so to speak, watching the news.
Harold, for those of you not lucky enough to get to know him, was a nationally-respected journalist with a steel-trap mind, a penchant for puns, and a dedication to journalism and freedom of the press that made his commitment to the news biz seem more like a vocation than a mere job.
It took at least three memorial services, here and in his native Deming, to make his colleagues feel like he’d had something like a proper send-off. The truth is, we didn’t want to let him go.
With the permission of his next of kin, I kept a small plant that was part of a floral tribute sent to a newsroom in mourning. As I put it in its own little pot of soil, I remembered hearing that a soul needed someplace to perch: a bush, a tree or a rock, as it prepared to depart from its Earth home to the next plain. I think it was a legend from my days in Santa Fe, where Harold and I both had worked with the Santa Fe New Mexican, though at different times.
We first met years later, on the phone in 1994, when I was in Jupiter (Fla., not the planet) and missing New Mexico, and he had become editor of the Sun-News. I’d sent a résumé and a few clips and told him I’d realized I belonged in the land of green chile and racing ducks.
He’d offered me a job before I realized that Harold himself had hatched the Great American Duck Race concept, with a group of fun-loving friends, back in 1980, reportedly over a few beers in a bar in Deming.
Harold’s fiesta has grown into an internationally-renowned institution in the past three decades.
Harold the plant flourished in our window-less, stuffy old newsroom, eventually filling a windowbox container and several annex pots as I pruned and subdivided over the years. Several overflow pots of Harold plant puppies went home with friends and colleagues as the staff expanded and space contracted.
When the presses left the building, the Harold parent plant waned a bit, actually seeming to miss the grungy mist of ubiquitous printers’ ink that lingered in the air for so many years. The plant seemed to perk up as political candidates streamed through for editorial conferences, and during various paint jobs, new carpets and attempted renovations of the old building. I was contemplating yet another root division and soliciting adoptions to good homes just before the January fire.
As we moved to interim digs, “Harold” got lost in the shuffle. A few weeks later, I finally found the sole survivor of what was once a flourishing green family. There were a few pathetic brown-tipped grayish leaves. I took the remains home, repotted with fresh soil and propped the stems up with some of my grandson’s old wooden darts.
And last week I brought a bright green, three-foot-high, happy Harold to our interim newsroom on Idaho Ave.
Practical souls would say it’s the windows. Cynics might cite the hot air and copious CO2 emitted by loquacious journalists. I’ll spare you my own theories and sentiments about the spirit of journalism and undying quests for truth, justice and the American Way … the way it ought to be.
But I’d swear “Harold” has grown half a foot and sprouted new leaves in a couple of days.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Your chance to be in a movie...

Want to be in the movies? If you’re available, get ready for your potential closeup. Award-winning movie producer, director and screenwriter Rod McCall is looking for men and women to appear in a trailer for his new feature-length comedy “Traveling Salesman.”
Try to look Midwestern. “It’s heavily Anglo, because the story is set in Iowa,” said McCall, who also teaches at NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, which is co-producing the project.
Men only are asked to show up at New Mexico State University’s Activity Center next to the natatorium at Stewart Street and Breland Drive between 7 and 11 p.m. Sunday Aug. 7.
“We’re looking for guys 18 to 60. Wear whatever you wear to work. It’s a town meeting scene,” McCall said.
Women only are asked to report for a shoot from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday Aug. 8 at the Bosque Bridge, also known as the Mesilla Bridge. Take Calle De Norte 1.7 miles west of Avenida de Mesilla to the bridge on the Rio Grande.
“We’re looking for women 18 to 55. They can wear dresses, or blouses with skirts, jeans or shorts. They will be chasing an ice cream truck across the bridge,” McCall said.
But don’t count on ice cream, or any other pay. Your only reward will be the glory.
“We’re looking for as many people as possible. If you show up, about a half hour before the shoot times, if possible, you’ll be in the trailer,” which will be posted online in about six weeks, McCall said.
Shooting for the actual film is expected to be completed in 2012.
“Becoming Eduardo,” McCall’s recent film shot in Southern New Mexico, has won 11 top awards at film festivals throughout the world.

Our nation needs art therapy

LAS CRUCES — It’s a summer to take comfort where you can find it.
“When it all gets to be too much, I just look around my little living room and think, right now, at this moment, things are looking good,” said my daughter-in-law, Shannon, an artistic soul with an knack for beautifying her surroundings on a budget.
I thought about that centering attitude of gratitude and the healing power of artistic expression, as I tried to make sense of summer 2011, which has been filled with angst, sudden change, unrest and horrors, nationally, globally and personally.
For some reason, I keep thinking of 1967, famously known as the Summer of Love to nostalgic ’60s fans. But I also remember, as a journalism major at Michigan State, visiting Detroit and thinking that the city was about to explode. Detroit riots followed soon thereafter; then came a year of national tragedies, assassinations, protests and heartbreaks.
The mood seems similar this agonizing summer, I mused on a recent mid-week drive. Then I made an early morning trip to photograph a unique artistic tribute in progress. Alma d’arte students are deconstructing a dumpster painted by the late Alex Medina and turning it into a bench and memorial that will be part of an inspiring campus project.
“Students, faculty and volunteers are working on an art piece that makes a trash-the-violence statement and we’re thinking about creating a peace garden,” Alma founder Irene Oliver-Lewis said.
There’s something about an artistic, if wistful, homage to peace that can soothe the soul.
Many of our loved ones near and far are struggling with health insurance issues and cutbacks in hours and benefits, and those at or near retirement age are stressed out, too, by the economic uncertainties of this peripatetic summer.
The forces of arrogance and greed, partisan politics and governmental gridlock all seem locked, loaded and committed to summer high noon standoffs in Washington D.C., putting us all through more anxiety.
I was walking through the Downtown Mall grumbling to myself when I spotted Chelsea Melton’s custom license plate: “Stop repeat offenders: Do not re-elect them.” (Read about three generations of creative Melton family members in this week’s Artists of the Week feature on page 4E.)
A laugh at the one-glance solution cheered me up considerably more than wading through all the lengthy treatises I’m getting at home and the office, which include sensible suggestions that we return to our founding philosophy of government by citizen legislators rather than career politicians. Ideas include limiting congressman, senators and even presidents to one term, restricting all legislators to the same Social Security and health plans the rest of us have to cope with (elimination their self-customized platinum versions), strictly prohibiting campaign contributions from exceeding $10 for individuals AND for corporations, and abolishing the U.S. Electoral College in favor of one person, one vote.
Maybe if we could condense such concepts to a few license plates or bumper stickers, we could make progress in this era of information overload.
What I’d really like to do is make survival on minimum wage for six months a requirement for anyone running for office.
But I’d settle for some mandatory activities to channel all that raw energy into creative, rather than destructive, pursuits.
Maybe we should withhold THEIR paychecks until our lawmakers agree to sing “Kumbaya,” (in four-part, or at least two-part harmony). And maybe we should require them to regularly sit down together to make artistic macaroni bracelets, paint cooperative murals or create and fire pottery together without breaking anything or wasting all their art supplies.
Or, better yet, we should demand that they stage an annual bipartisan show to benefit (rather than demoralize) the American public.
In the stressed-out summer of 2011, we all could use an artistic break.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450