Monday, October 27, 2014

A few of my favorite Las Cruces things

Sept. 21

What do you like to share about Las Cruces?
It’s something that usually comes up whenever a friend or relative comes for a visit. It can depend, of course, on the season of — and the reason for — the visit.
I’ve developed my own checklist for Christmas or seasonal fiestas which pretty much plan themselves, and I have the pictures to prove it: grandson Alexander the Great, for instance, as a 10-month-old shaking his maracas on the Mesilla Plaza during a Cinco de Mayo celebration. It’s something to share with him now that he’s an 18-year-old with his own band.
My sister Sally and I built a Día de los Muertos altar for our late mom on that same plaza a few years later. Mesilla’s plaza is like every southern New Mexican’s back yard and touchstone. It’s one of the places where our history is most tangible.
Of course, new touchstones spring up, too. Like Olin Calk’s giant roadrunner made from recycled cast-offs. I love the creativity and green spirit the roadrunner represents, and I love to share it. I’ve gone out of my way to take like-minded tree-hugging souls to see one of my favorite all-time works of art, even when it meant a strange and less-than-fragrant trip to its former perch at what was then an East Mesa landfill. And I discovered I have lots of company. When the roadrunner returned to its more scenic perch at an I-10 rest stop overlooking the Organs, I learned that it has become a touchstone (and photo op) for cross-country truckers and even some newlyweds, who are coming back to have pictures taken with the first kids and the giant roadrunner.
In my two decades here,  the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market has always been a mandatory stop on the Las Cruces grand tour, even before it rated as No. 1 in a nationwide poll of large outdoor markets. It’s always a good time — a sweet little showcase of everything I love about our town and it’s unique mix of the three As: arts, academia and agriculture. And it’s gotten better, as it’s gotten bigger, with more stylish booths, expanding live entertainment, and posher refurbished surroundings after Main Street re-opened.
I also try to swing by some of our other outdoor markets, too: the Mesilla Mercado on Sundays and Fridays and Big Daddy’s Flea Market on Saturdays.
Newcomers or returning former Las Cruces usually want to spend some time seeing what all the Downtown revitalization fuss is about, so I usually arrange for a walking tour — especially fun if we happen to hit on the first Friday Downtown Ramble through museums, shops and galleries. If not, we usually find a way to visit a few galleries, anyway, and the Branigan Cultural Center, Museum of Art and the Museum of Art and Science, and the Railroad Museum. My book-loving friends want to visit Coas, still one of the biggest and most intriguing used bookstores in the wild west.
Theatre buffs want to catch a performance at the Rio Grande, the Black Box, the Las Cruces Community Theatre, the Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre at the new Center for the Arts at NMSU and the newly-named Irene Oliver-Lewis Theatre at Court Youth Center and Alma d’arte Charter High School for the arts in the beautiful old Pueblo Revival building she inspired the community to bring back to life.
Which brings us to the new buildings tour: including the new Doña Ana County Government Center, Las Cruces City Hall and the federal building (look inside for their permanent and rotating art exhibits, too).
Outdoor enthusiasts get a tour of natural wonders: Dripping Springs, hikes through Baylor pass and other Organ destinations, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, a visit (and maybe a moonlight tour or dunes slide) to White Sands National Monument.
Science fans enjoy seeing the New Mexico Space Museum and Tombaugh Planetarium at Alamogordo, with stops on the trip home, if possible, at the eclectic museum on the WSMR base, and the Space Murals Museum on Hwy. 70 near Organ.
Even if your visitors happen to hit a rare Full-Tilt Fiesta Season weekend without a major fiesta, there is always a unique cultural smorgasbord of goodies on any given weekend that could include a symphony or ballet performance, live theater (maybe even a premiere), mariachis, dance, jazz, rock, blues or some exotic only-in-Las Cruces fusion of performance and visual arts.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

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