Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Growing pains in Las Cruces

LAS CRUCES >> It hit me, that December week when we had hours of rain, followed by early morning fog the next day.
The newsroom group we call the East Mesa Posse began filing in, grumbling about the delays. We’d all been noticing that the timing seems to be off with the lights on that stretch of Highway 70 (aka North Main Street and Bataan Memorial Highway) from Roadrunner to Picacho Avenue.
If you hit one red light, you seem to hit ‘em all, even though you’re strictly adhering to the speed limit — even in the wee small hours, long before rush hour. And what used to be a five- or 10-minute commute, for me, sometimes stretches into a half hour or more.
We compared notes and realized there are now several places in town, outside the “Lohmador” corridor, where you can sit though a red light one, two or even (gasp) three times before you finally get moving.
“Las Cruces is starting to outgrow itself,” opined reporter Matlin Smith.
For a long time, I cast my lot with the enamoured newcomers who rejoice that Las Cruces still retains its small-town ambiance while it is growing into a respectably-sized city. (It’s the state’s second largest, bigger than Santa Fe — as I like to remind Santa Fe amigos and East and West Coast friends and relatives who don’t know about Las Cruces. I still find our ranking a little surprising myself.)
Now I wonder if we’ll see 2013 as the year things changed.
At first, I thought it was just that my personal perspective had altered. I spent part of the year recovering from some wounds suffered in previous years and had to navigate with a cane during months of physical therapy.
I’m just older and slower, I’ve decided and daunted by the prospect of lengthy fiesta rounds or weekly farmers and crafts market visits.
But as I recovered, I realized it’s not just me. Events are often bigger, with more venders and attractions stretched out over more territory. And from beer and wine fests to the Whole Enchilada Fiesta and popular performances, it takes longer to get to your destination, longer to find a parking place, and longer to wend your way through bigger crowds and longer lines. I used to make two or three passes at each market and special event: one to case the joint, and then a few follow-up rounds to do interviews, take pictures and videos and send Tweets and Touts. Often, now, there’s barely time for one go-around.
Heretofore laid-back events like the monthly Downtown Ramble and the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market sometimes take some strategy to navigate at prime time, with formidable congestion at some galleries and booths — even though there are a greater number of venues and options.
And I’ve even noticed a disturbing trend toward a few turf wars, or at least what could pass for a skirmish or two, if you’re going by usually mellow, win-win Las Cruces standards.
These days, the competition for audiences, fiesta-goers, venues, publicity and attention can get pretty intense in the Mesilla Valley, especially during FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season) and what we are coming to know as Superweekends (especially the first weekend in December and major holidays like spring break/Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween and a number of Borderland occasions that continue to increase in popularity, like Cinco de Mayo, Diez y Seis de Septiembre and Día de los Muertos).
We’re a can-do, volunteer kind of community, something I love and admire about us. But we’ve reached the point where many events could benefit from professional help and guidance and there are strong indications that those groups and organizations who have made the leap to hire pros, draw on staff support and invest time in volunteer training programs are reaping the benefits and attracting more loyal fans.
For all of this, we’re still one of the most liveable cities anywhere. I hope we’ll find creative, cooperative ways to weather our growing pains.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, at Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

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