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

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