LAS CRUCES — I’ve been writing about fiestas and interesting places to see and things to do in New Mexico for several decades now, but I’m still not even close to fulfilling my bucket list of potential New Mexico adventures.
It seems there are endless enchanting possibilities in the Land of Enchantment. I still haven’t perfected my ultimate list of “musts” for Southern New Mexico.
But I do have a preliminary assortment of things I feel you must do — at least once — though many have become regular favorites that I never tire of visiting with local or visiting amigos.
This is by no means a complete list, and I haven’t included frequent regional pleasures, like favorite local outdoor markets, galleries, museums, theaters and restaurants.
One of my big “musts” is happening today, the last day of Deming’s Great American Duck Race. At least once, choose a quacker from their stable and join the race. It’s not whether you win or lose that counts (though last year’s top two winners split a purse of almost $3,000), but the chance to say that you did you best and earned your “I raced a duck” ribbon.
There are several festivals and experiences coming up that I may not get to attend every year, but I would still maintain that at least one visit is mandatory.
Here’s my own partial list. Have fun developing your own choices.
• The Hatch Chile Festival, Sept. 1 & 2. If you’re new here, you’ll find your own fave sources for bulk chile purchase and roasting, but at least once, go to the fiesta and buy some chiles and exotic chile products at the mother ship.
• White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational, Sept. 15 & 16. What can compare to the sight of colorful balloons ascending over sparkling White Sands? Or check out the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 6 to 14, the Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta, Sept. 8 & 9 and our own Mesilla Valley Balloon Rally (in 2013: Jan. 12 & 13). And at least once: Go up, up and away in a beautiful balloon yourself. Volunteer to crew or help out at a festival and you might be offered a free ride.
• The Whole Enchilada Fiesta, Sept. 28 to 30. I‘ve actually watched the preparation of the World’s Largest Flat Enchilada. For the first time this year, you won’t be able to do that, but we can all hope that Roberto Estrada will be back next year, by popular demand, with new equipment.
• Zombie Walk, Oct. 27. This is the newest entry on my list, but my visitors were so impressed by last year’s zombies, that I’m bullish on the impressive parade of the walking dead, lurching around Main Street Downtown. This year, the Doña Ana Arts Council will launch a new event at the same time: the Haunted Theatre, in what is billed as the state’s oldest adobe theater: the Rio Grande. At least once: Concoct your own outfit and join the walking dead yourself. You could win undying fame and a prize.
• Dia de los Muertos, Nov. 2, 3 & 4 in Mesilla, and several fall events in the Borderland. There are all kinds of “musts” attached to this, from exhibits and Jose Tena’s altar at the Branigan Cultural Center to the fiesta, the procession, art shows, and altars in Mesilla and other special events all over the region. At least once: Dress up, bring noisemakers and join the procession (always at dusk Nov. 2) and build an altar on the Mesilla Plaza for a departed loved one.
• Renaissance ArtsFaire, Nov. 3 & 4 at Young Park. It’s the region’s largest cultural event, with all kinds of ye olde entertainment, regal processions, arts and crafts, food treats and fun. At least once: Dress up in full Renaissance regalia and plan to make a day of it. And get the Boy Scouts to take you on a canoe ride to visit Magellan, the official RenFaire lake dragon.
• Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, Nov. 16 to 18. Every year there are workshops, a Student Showcase, a Spectacular Concert, a Mariachi Mass and a Parque Festival. At least once: Experience the excitement and bright colors and sounds of folklorico dancers rushing into Pan Am as some of the world’s best mariachi musicians perform.
• Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival every Dec. 10, 11 and 12. Make the pilgrimage up Tortugas Mountain at least once. It’s a moving, spiritual experience that can forge profound bonds with your Creator, your fellow pilgrims, and your community. I don’t make the trek every year, but I do almost always return for the dancing and to light candles for loved ones in one of the most beautiful churches in the Southwest.
• Mesilla Plaza Christmas Eve Carols & Luminarias, Dec. 24. There are lots of luminaria events now, but this is the first and best. At least once: Stay to sing carols and have a hot beverage at Josefina’s Gate.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.