Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Mexico Centennial Adventures

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — What will you tell your kids and grandkids about New Mexico’s Centennial celebrations?
I think I’ve already got the gist of it. Our 100-year party is shaping up to be multicultural, enchanting, historic, colorful, spicy, eclectic, a bit eccentric and of course, fully imbued with generous helpings of the prerequisite three W’s: Wild, wonderful and wacky.
In short: an apt reflection of daily life in the Land of Enchantment.
And full of surprises. I wonder if many of us have given a thought to President William Howard Taft since high school American history classes.
But suddenly, Taft, as portrayed by actor Dale Liikala, seemed to be everywhere. Reenacting the New Mexico’s statehood proclamation at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum and lunching with his “new” fellow American citizens. Hobnobbing with locals on Main Street downtown, lecturing at the Branigan, riding in a big 1962 Lincoln Continental as Grand Marshall of the Mesilla Valley New Mexico Centennial Parade …
And speaking of parades: If you had to select just one parade to watch this century, the Mesilla Valley Centennial Parade would be the one to choose.
I was there, and I’m very glad.
Ten years in the planning, a century in the making and with a cast of thousands, it was a thrill-a-minute audience pleaser.
Even normally antsy little dogs and small children sat in thrall as the 100-minute parade (which was closer to two hours, with opening ceremonies and normal parade pauses) sauntered by, full of pride, history, happy kids, good-sport adults in period costumes and lots and lots of noble servicemen and women of all ages.
Decade by decade, we celebrated the last century, Las Cruces-style.
Actually, the parade subjects ventured much further back into the past, from the Paleozoic Trackways, representing those creatures older than dinosaurs who left their marks in the Robledo Mountains here, to homages to the Piro-Manso-Tiwa and Spanish Conquistadors.
It quickly became clear that southern New Mexico is home to a lot of cool old cars and beautiful new children.
Kids sang and shouted “Happy Birthday, New Mexico,” marching behind banners announcing their schools in order of their founding.
Many groups dressed in period costumes or offered placards with historical decades representing the year the organizations first appeared in the city of Las Cruces. Early 20th century bowler hats and elegant suits segued into ’50s poodle skirts and ’60s flower child ensembles.
Individual names registered: Clarence Fielder with an homage to the Phillips Chapel restoration, World’s Largest Enchilada record holder Robert Estrada greeting the crowd, a comment that a parade participant was wearing a Stetson that belonged to the late Sen. Frank Papen.
There were boys and girls in colorful folklorico outfits, sports mascots, astronauts and a least one dancing chile. There were many queens, past and present: from 1949 Las Cruces Centennial Queen Teresa Viramontes-Holguin to reigning Hatch Chile Queen Selinda Alvarez Garay, they were all looking radiant.
There were vehicles from the past, present and (back to the) future.
Curbside, I noticed I coughed a lot less as exhaust systems improved, somewhere around the 1980s.
Kids from Clyde Tombaugh Elementary School chanted, “Pluto IS a planet, we still believe!”
The parade’s boffo 2012 ending could be a column in itself and may be soon: Highlights included the new Centennial High School, WSMR’s 2d Engineer Battalion, Butterfield Park Matachines, a biodiesel-fueled, satellite-guided tractor, and a nod to New Mexico Spaceport Authority and Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline.
All along the crowded parade route, individual and group shouts and applause broke out as people recognized their favorites: students, teachers, songs, soldiers, historical events and periods, vehicles, queens, schools, organizations, police and fire personnel, companies, fiestas…
A man in a bowler hat moved through the crowd, shaking hands.
“It’s a very good day to be a New Mexican,” he said.
We agreed. Especially if you’re lucky enough to live in the Mesilla Valley part of the Land of Enchantment.

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

No comments: