Friday, May 10, 2013

Downtown comes alive

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — I’ve been hoping for a dynamic, fun downtown Las Cruces, ever since I moved here almost two decades ago.
Be careful what you wish for, I thought during a grumpy, rushed moment on a recent Saturday.
I decided to park near La Placita, where I was covering the Reuse & Recycle Fashion Show before heading off to my next assignment. I circled all my favorite lots and made the rounds of my own “secret” downtown parking places I’ve always been able to sneak in, even in the old days when the Whole Enchilada Fiesta was held on the Downtown Mall.
For a moment, I flashed back on my last days in Santa Fe, when it was a major challenge to find a parking spot close to anything I was covering on the plaza or Canyon Road, or even to the New Mexican newsroom or the Albuquerque Journal’s bureau office to file my stories. 
Finally, I gave up and realized it would be a lot quicker to return and park in the new Sun-News parking lot, just a couple of blocks away, thank goodness. 
And it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t make it to the gym that day. I would already have logged a couple of miles, by the time I’d walked the length of the expanded Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market a couple of times, headed over to interview an artist of the week, and headed back to cover the event on La Placita. And frankly, the ambiance was a lot more interesting than a treadmill in a sweaty old gym.
When we hit triple digits, I may change my tune, but right now, I’m pretty happy with the way things are working out in the ‘hood.
And clearly, I’m not alone.
Thousands show up for the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market every Saturday, and, though there are considerably fewer vendors, there is also an increasingly respectable show on Wednesdays, the other regular market day.
And the ready made crowds are attracting more attractions. A few years ago, Denise Chavez moved Border Book Festival Foundation headquarters from Mesilla to a picturesque adobe 314 S. Tornillo St., in Las Cruces burgeoning old town, “original townsite” neighborhood. And in April, most of the festival activities were held around Downtown in the restored Rio Grande Theatre, another major draw, now for a host of activities.
 Rona M. Lujan, coordinator for British Car Days  been held on the Mesilla Plaza for several years said the Saturday Market crowds were a major factor in the decicion to move her group’s event downtown this year.
In fact, that same Saturday, adventurous Las Crucens or ambitious tourists could visit the market, see a fleet of  British Car Days vehicles, drop in and out to catch a dozen dance groups (or join a line dance) at International Day of Dance at the Rio Grande Theatre, see artists  creating street masterpieces in the juried Avenue Art New Mexico competition, or head over to the old Santa Fe Depot  the Las Cruces Railroad Museum’s Railroad Days.
It was a busy day for special events, but there were more enticements to linger that you’ll find any Saturday.
If you still craved a little more entertainment, you could linger and listen to market  musicians, or visit the Branigan Memorial Library and city’s three other downtown museums: Las Cruces Museum of Art, the Branigan Cultural Center and the new Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science.
And if you’re not a morning person, downtown draws include the monthly Downtown Arts Ramble from 5 to 7 the first Friday of each month, plus an increasing number of art galleries and intriguing shops (including CoAs, one of the largest and most eclectic used book sources in the United States), restaurants, and shows at three theaters: the Rio Grande, the Black Box and the Las Cruces Community Theatre.
All of a sudden, it seems, there’s a lot to see and a lot to do. 
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

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