Thursday, January 16, 2014

A fiesta for fiesta planners

Want to get a drop on 2015?
I asked if any if you have ideas for fiestas to liven up the next year in general and January in particular, and Joni Johnson of Las Cruces is already coming up with some ideas for New Year’s celebrations in 2015.
“Some combination of your recent columns about downtown events and coverage of ‘wacky’ New Year’s Eve celebrations (e.g. the possum drop in Georgia) fomented in my brain, leading to this suggestion: How about next year we have a chile drop downtown? My husband and I tossed the idea back and forth and we envision an LED-covered chile that starts out green and turns red as it descends. I’m sure our engineering students could easily create it, given current LED technology. Vendors could sell tamales and hot cocoa, and a mariachi band could play ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ It’s a wild idea, but New Mexico is all about wild ideas, after all,” Joni notes.
I agree. Maybe, incorporating all of Joni’s imaginative ideas, we could work out some kind of cross-promotional deal with the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute and the New Mexico Chile Conference (this year’s conference will be Feb. 3 and 4, the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces), the Hatch Chile Fiesta, held on Labor Day weekend, the fall SalsaFest and the November Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference.
Or we might go even bigger and do a January event that resurrects an old slogan touting Las Cruces as the city of festive moods and fiesta attitudes and make it a sampler for all our festivals: the FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season) Fiesta!
We could start with the chile drop Joni envisioned and maybe include a big New Year’s Eve benefit ball or bash (something that’s been lacking in recent years) at some place like the Rio Grande Theatre or NMSU’s new Center For the Arts, depending on where we decide to drop the chile ball. Since NMSU will be on holiday break, it might be more logical to use it as an opportunity to showcase downtown renovation progress, with events at downtown theaters, restaurants, galleries and businesses. Maybe one or more of the city museums could host special events for kids, like arts and crafts classes, games, or even a New Year’s Eve “night in the museum” sleepover party.
Then, to cover more bases and avoid iffy weather issues, we could move the FTFS Fiesta indoors to the Las Cruces Convention Center, where all the major annual festivals could have booths where they could publicize their attractions and recruit sponsors and volunteers, if needed.
Smart fiesta planners could also offer samples of the things that make their festivals great. Imagine a modest six-foot version of Roberto Estrada’s world-record setting creation for the Whole Enchilada Festival. How about mini exhibition heats to convey the excitement of Deming’s Great American Duck Race or Tortugas San Juan Fiesta Turtle Races? There could be free or low-cost samples or information about all the things we celebrate with festivals here in the Mesilla Valley: New Mexican wines and beers, pecans, chiles, art, cowboys, frontier days, Renaissance days, books, dance, country music, jazz, Borderland holidays, national holidays, religious holidays, veterans, mazes, balloons, space (the Spaceport, space pioneers, and our three regional space museums), films, the seasons... whew!
Well, you get the idea. Anything that celebrates life (and death: don’t forget Día de los Muertos) could be highlighted in our annual FTFS Fiesta. And I haven’t forgotten Plutopalooza, the fiesta I’ve proposed to celebrate the July 14, 2015, arrival of the New Horizons probe, with Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes on board, to the little heavenly body Clyde found in 1930. More on that soon.
With creativity, ingenuity, hard work and dauntless fiesta spirit, we’ve fielded some wonderful, imaginative, inspirational, and entertaining celebrations, and perhaps more fiestas per capita than any place on the planet.
With a little FTFS Fiesta planning and promotion, 2015 could be the year we are justly recognized as Earth’s Fiesta Central.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.

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.

What's up ?

Is this the time of year you dedicate to new beginnings? Or do you just feel like hibernating until spring?

Pluto fiesta and more visions for 2014

By Derrickson Moore on Twitter
What would you like to see in Las Cruces in 2014?
While we’re making New Year’s resolutions and goals for ourselves, why not brainstorm a few dreams for our city?
I hope we form an official committee and start planning soon to get ready for Plutopalooza, the fiesta I’ve proposed to celebrate the “arrival” of our very own space pioneer to the region he discovered nearly a century ago. On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons probe, which was launched on Jan. 19, 2006 with Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes on board, will arrive at Pluto.
Maybe we should get the Spaceport involved and see how many luminaries we can enlist and how many T-shirt designs we can devise. (I’m still partial to “PLUTO. PLANET. DAMMIT.”)
We’ll need a lot of lead time to do justice to Clyde and our favorite planet. Let’s show ’em what a big fiesta a “dwarf” planet can generate.
I have less cosmic goals for 2014, too.
I’d like to see the Downtown area continue to make progress. I’m personally resolving to visit the Downtown Ramble the first Friday of every month in 2014. I always find something new and intriguing and run into amigos I haven’t seen as often as I’d like.
It would be nice to see some new restaurants in the ’hood, and I hope the proposed Friday food truck roundup takes hold and prospers.
It’s always nice to see new galleries and specialty shops anywhere in the Mesilla Valley, from the East Mesa to Mesilla.
I want to go to more plays, concerts, gallery openings, special events and fiestas.
It’s great to see that we keep adding events, from beer fests to the Las Cruces Country Music Festival.
I’d like to see us generate even more fiestas, particularly in the little downtime gaps, in January and late summer. 
I’ve always wanted to see a fiesta dedicated to the my favorite high desert critter, the roadrunner, for instance. And it seems like we could come up with some ideas that lend themselves to indoor celebrations at, say, the Las Cruces Convention Center and the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, thus doing away with the excuse that it’s too cold in January and too hot in late July and August to have a great fiesta.
I’m looking forward to hearing more from the recently-formed Creative Economy committee, which is working on ways to bring more life and art to our city with innovative ideas like rent-free or low-cost “pop-up” stores that could give artists and entrepreneurs a chance to try out new ideas.
There are inklings that visions of an upscale boutique hotel are gaining ground, and I’ve heard rumors of proposed locations that include Picacho Peak, or transformative renovations of the old Multnomah County Building, the old Las Cruces City Hall and the Amador Hotel. I say, one or all, let’s do it!
When Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, the Justins (Bieber and Timberlake) and the rest of the superstars make their maiden voyages from Spaceport, we don’t want them thinking they have to commute from Albuquerque or Santa Fe.
And yes, we still want a Trader Joe’s. I’ve had a hankering for Whole Foods, too, but after visiting their store in Santa Fe recently, I think we can make do with the resources of our own exotic combo of Toucan, Mountain View Market and colorful Pro’s Ranch.
I used to miss Santa Fe’s Jackalope, but I’ve found a lot of equally wonderful stuff at diverse locations round the Mesilla Valley, and it’s lots of fun making the rounds. I haven’t managed to make it to La Tienda Rosa (the Pink Store) in Palomas, Mexico, lately, and I’m looking forward to seeing their new store in Silver City.
Which brings me to resolutions both personal and professional. I used to pay a visit at least once a year to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Truth or Consequences, Columbus/Palomas and to sites of many of our sister newspapers, including Deming, Silver City, Alamogordo, Ruidoso and Carlsbad.
I looked forward to visiting their museums, galleries, restaurants, lodging and leading tourist attractions and meeting their artists and colorful characters.
And then writing features telling you about what’s new, old and entertaining throughout the Land of Enchantment as well as in my enduring querencia, right here.
I hope to do more of that in 2014. And I’d like to hear about your visions and goals for the Mesilla Valley.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, at Derrickson Moore on Twitter or call 575-541-5450.

The eclectic days of January

Ah, another January. Can’t we just fast forward to February?
If T.S. Eliot is right, and April is the cruelest month, could it be that January is the most depressing month, or maybe just the most boring?
True, we started January’s first week with sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s, but there’s always the possibility that we could be ambushed by cold and nasty weather for a long time to come.
Most of January seems to be a lull in the now nearly-year-around FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season). Las Crucens usually rally to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ( with a Jan. 20 breakfast and a Jan. 19 commemorative march) and Chinese New Year (Jan. 31 this year), with inclusive community events.
Always-inventive Las Cruces entertainment icons Mark Medoff and Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra conductor Lonnie Klein have marched boldly into the January entertainment vacuum to collaborate with local and national talents on some really big shows.
But early January, after New Year’s Day and the first Friday Downtown Ramble, is pretty quiet.
For inspiration, I turned to a favorite website, to consult their list of “January 2014 Bizarre and Unique Holidays.”
Alas, you may already have missed the opportunity to celebrate Run Up the Flagpole and See if Anyone Salutes Day, National Bird Day, Bean Day, Cuddle Up Day, Festival of Sleep Day and days devoted to Fruitcake Toss, Humiliation, Trivia, Old Rock (the minerals, not the music), Bubble Baths, Peculiar People, and Houseplant Appreciation. Play God Day (Jan. 9) is behind us now, as is yesterday’s Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day, which probably never had much potential as a hot ticket fiesta in high desert country anyway. We’re at the tail end of Letter Writing Week, traditionally the second week in January according to the site, but I figure we can extend it a few days in honor of our cherished snail mail traditions.
If you didn’t catch Male Watcher’s Day on Jan. 8, don’t despair. Today is Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day and National Pharmacist Day. Could they be combined into an ab-fab (or fab-ab) fiesta?
There’s still a wealth of fun stuff to celebrate in January, including, appropriately, Make Your Dream Come True Day on Monday, though depressives and pessimists may want to spend tomorrow sulking through International Skeptics Day instead.
It’s shaping up as a varied week with Dress Up Your Pet Day on Tuesday. Dress up yourself on National Hat Day on Wednesday. Rounding out the week will be National Nothing Day Thursday, Ditch New Years Resolutions Day on Friday and a double threat Saturday: Thesaurus Day and Winnie the Pooh Day.
If you think I’m making this up, go to and click on any exotic choice that appeals to you to get the full downlow on your favorites.
Here, according to the site, are highlights from Jan. 19 (National Popcorn Day) through Jan. 31 (Backward Day.) In between, in order of their appearance are: Penguin Awareness Day, National Hugging Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, National Blonde Brownie Day, National Pie Day, National Handwriting Day, Measure Your Feet Day, Beer Can Appreciation Day, Compliment Day, Opposite Day, Spouse’s Day, Chocolate Cake Day, Punch the Clock Day, Fun at Work Day, National Kazoo Day, National Puzzle Day, National Cornchip Day and National Inane Answering Message Day.
You still have three weeks to celebrate Hot Tea Month, and don’t forget that it’s National Bath Safety Month, National Blood Donor Month. National Braille Literacy Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Soup Month and National Hobby Month.
If you have an artistic hobby, or plan to celebrate Jan. 31 Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, you’ll be in just the right mood when FTFS resumes with February For the Love of Art Month in the Mesilla Valley, jam packed with shows, exhibits, creative happenings, studio tours and an exciting variety of visual, performing, literary and dramatic arts. Rest up and get ready.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.