Friday, May 9, 2014

The rise of Superweekends

If you think there’s nothing to do in this town, you haven’t been paying attention.
It’s true that I have a front row seat — literally and figuratively — after two decades covering arts and entertainment here, but I think it has to be obvious to most of us that things are hot and getting hotter.
FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season) now is pretty much year-around. When I arrived in the mid-1990s, FTFS kicked off with the Deming Duck Races in late August and ran until December. Sure, there were a few enthusiastic traditional holiday celebrations, along with the Whole Enchilada Festival, RenFaire and some hot air balloon gatherings here and there, but there were long, long fallow periods in the heat of summer and the cold of winter where nothing major happened for long periods of time, at least in the fiesta department.
But even then, we produced an amazing amount of arts and entertainment for a city our size. Barbara Hubbard thought Las Cruces could be a major entertainment hub for bands and performers en route from Texas to Arizona and California, and she made sure that the powers that be knew about Las Cruces in general and Pan Am and other NMSU venues in particular. As a result, when larger cities went begging, we were enjoying performances by everyone from George Strait and Garth Brooks to Pearl Jam, Elton John and Janet Jackson, to say nothing of Lollapalooza rock fests.
Thanks to the pioneering work and connections of people like Marianna Gabbi, the first American woman to conduct in both China and the then-USSR, the Las Cruces Symphony also attracted world-class performers, a tradition continued by Lonnie Klein.
Our theater community also has deep and impressive roots. Hershel Zohn at New Mexico State University set the stage, with Bruce Streett, Mark Medoff and others, to form the American Southwest Theatre Company, which joins the Las Cruces Community Theatre, No Strings-Black Box Theatre Company, a host of children’s theater groups, and assorted independent groups based at venues around town. We’ve acquired a reputation as the Broadway of the Southwest, fostered by the residency of NMSU prof Mark Medoff, a Tony Award-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated filmmaker and Creative Media Institute founder who has made numerous films here, and taken several plays from Las Cruces to bigger venues including the “real” Broadway in New York.
We have nurtured musical superstars, too, who have made the big time in the Big Apple and elsewhere in fields that range from classical, opera to bluegrass, rock, pop and country. The roster of talented musicians is now growing so fast that I’m not going to attempt a listing. Let’s just say there are an impressive number of stars with Las Cruces roots in just about any art field you can name.
We have world class Las Cruces-based painters, sculptors, ceramicists, specialists in glass, wood and street arts and multimedia artists. We have extraordinary performance artists, including nationally-honored dance groups based at NMSU, some of the planet’s best flamenco and folklorico dancers,  Project Motion, an aerial dance troupe that tours extensively, and Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, New Mexico’s oldest continuing ballet company.
We have award-winning filmmakers, poets, novelists, historical and non-fiction writers and journalists.
We have Alma d’arte Charter High School and other private and public schools and educational programs and projects devoted to the arts from elementary to college level. The Las Cruces International Mariachi Festival has polished the talents of generations of mariachi musicians and folklorico dancers. And increasingly, we put a lot of this talent to work entertaining us all at lots of fiestas. So many, in fact, that in the two decades I’ve been here, we have evolved into a city with a year-around FTFS, punctuated with more and more Superweekends.
We expect a lot of fun on established holidays, like Memorial Day weekend (read all about the growing number of attractions in today’s SunLife section). But some Superweekends have been a surprise, even to those of us in the FTFS biz, like a recent April weekend that included the Las Cruces County Music Festival, Border Book Festival, Las Cruces Railroad Days, British Car Days and New Mexico Avenue Art street art competition.
Superweekends represent super opportunities, for talented persons based in Las Cruces, for tourists attracted by the excitement and the restaurants, hotels and other business that cater to them, and of, course, for fiesta animals like us, who appreciate the fun and camaraderie of living in the FTFS center of the planet.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter or Tout or call 575-541-5450.Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450

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