One last hurrah
Labor Day festivals herald end of summer
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
School’s back in session — you can tell by the sudden boom of traffic on University Avenue and the lengthening lines at coffee shops and cafés — the days are getting cooler (at last!) and shorter (no!), farmers and field workers the valley through are hard at work in the fields readying the year’s crops and, this weekend, southern New Mexico and the greater Borderlands region comes together for one last hurrah in celebration of Labor Day weekend — the unofficial end of summer, where we laud the American workers movement by not going to work — with a full slate of festivals geared to every taste.
From flowing New Mexico-made wines to tongue-tingling Hatch Valley chile from just up the road and fine art from some of the region’s best artists to the thumping bass and multi-million-dollar laser-light shows from some of the world’s top DJs, the Borderlands is the place to be.
Harvest Wine Festival
While green chile may be are crown-jewel crop, the Land of Enchantment — especially the southern part of the state — has a winemaking heritage that dates back to the arrival of Spanish missionaries to the Rio Grande in the late 1500s — even before California —making New Mexico the oldest wine-growing region in the country.
Twice each year, the New Mexico Wine Growers association hosts two wine festivals in Las Cruces, heralding the beginning and end of summer — Memorial Day weekend’s Southern New Mexico Wine Festival and Labor Day weekend’s Harvest Wine Festival — with three-day celebrations of wines made, as they have been for centuries, right here in the Mesilla Valley.
This weekend, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday, Sept. 5-7, the Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, just west of Las Cruces at 12125 Robert Larson Blvd., will host wineries from all over the Land of Enchantment on hand to offer guests samples of their finest wines.
Participating wineries include Don Quixote, Dos Viejos, Luna Rossa, Heart of the Desert, La Esperanza, Rio Grande, Pecos Flavors, Cottonwood Wine and Brewing, Amaro, Ponderosa Valley, Tularosa, Wines of the San Juan, Guadalupe, St. Clair, DH Lescombes, Troubled Minds and Camino Real.
Of course, the fairgrounds will be loaded with more than just wine, so while you’re there, make sure you browse a few of the vendor booths along the perimeter, offering just about anything you could imagine — jewelry and clothing, arts, crafts, souvenirs, locally made food products and more — and stop for a bite at one of the numerous food trucks and carts set up — you’ll need the nourishment.
All three days of the Harvest Wine Festival will showcase some of the area’s best and brightest musical acts under a shaded tent loaded with seats — and plenty of room for dancing. Saturday features Derrick Harris (noon) and Radio la Chusma (3 p.m.), Sunday features Vince Alten (noon) and Border Avenue (3 p.m.) and Monday, Overcome Las Cruces (noon) and The Ghetto Blasters (3 p.m.) take the stage.
Tickets to the Harvest Wine Festival are $15 internet presale, $20 at the gate, which includes a souvenir wine glass and samples. Guests younger than 21 are free, and must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. All guests must have a valid photo ID. Monday, Sept. 7, is Military Monday, when all active duty military receive $3 off admission.
For more information, visit www. wineharvestfestival.com.
Hatch Chile Festival
Forty miles north of Las Cruces on Interstate 10 past the farms and fields of Doña Ana and San Ysidro and the ageing remains of Fort Selden in Radium Springs lies the village of Hatch, renowned (and imitated) the world over for its mouth-watering chile.
Over two days — this year Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5-6 — the small agricultural town of just more than 1,600 residents explodes when more than 30,000 visitors pour in to the Hatch Municipal Airport each year to celebrate all things chile — carnivals, parades, chile-, jalapeño- and watermelon-eating contests, cook-offs, dances and live music, arts and crafts vendors, ristra demonstrations, games, rides, and, of course, lots and lots of chile.
Admission to the Hatch Chile Festival is $10 per carload — why not carpool? — and is good for both days. The Hatch Municipal Airport is located one mile west of Hatch on Highway 26. For more information and a complete schedule, visit www. hatchilefest.com.
Franciscan Festival of Fine Art
In 1957, Bishop Sidney M. Metzger of the Diocese of El Paso and Father Owen de Silva of the Santa Barbara, Calif., order of Franciscan Friars purchased a tract of land in the south Mesilla Valley, once the 14-room adobe-brick homestead of Frank Monaghan and family, to provide God’s people with a place to find escape and respite from the cares of the world on nearly 100 acres amid the fertile alfalfa fields and shading pecan trees of the valley under the visage of the Organ Mountains.
In the nearly 60 years since, Holy Cross Retreat Center has provided an “oasis” of prayer, study, serenity and reflection for thousands, centered on the Catholic faith but welcoming all faiths and open to hosting private retreats from the stressful hustle and bustle of daily life.
As a place to feed the spirit and the soul, art has long been a part of Holy Cross Retreat Center’s mission. In 1992, Father Marcos Reyna reestablished along with Bobbie Provencio an arts festival absent from the center since 1980, when its small crafts fair was adopted by the Doña Ana Arts Council — later to become the long-running Renaissance ArtsFaire, which celebrates 44 years in November.
The festival, reincarnated as something of an artists’ demonstration, pulling together painters, sculptors and craftspeople with writers and poets to illuminate visitors to their craft and process, folded again in 1997 after five successful years, only to be resuscitated in 2004, dubbed the Franciscan Festival of Fine Art and reimagined as a place for artists to display and sell their work on the center’s extensive grounds.
In its 10 past years, the Franciscan Festival of Fine Art has boomed — last year’s event drew nearly 5,500 people over its two days, eager to see works from its more than 90 participating artists — and organizers hope this year the trend continues, as all proceeds go to support the continued mission and work of the Holy Cross Retreat Center.
With an estimated 95 artists showing fine art pieces — that is, no “arts and crafts” and no resale items — in a variety of media — painting, sculpture, wood carving, glass blowing, jewelry, gourd art, pottery, metal and tin work and more — the Franciscan Festival of Fine Art is the perfect weekend destination for art lovers the Borderlands over.
More than that, the festival’s two days are set to include an enchilada and paella dinner, food vendors throughout the fair, a large silent auction, a cash raffle, live music on two stages — one outdoors to enjoy the sunshine, and one indoors to stay in the shade — and a beer and wine garden.
This year, Father Tom Smith, the Franciscan friar who has guarded the friary and directed the retreat center since 2010, encourages new and returning visitors to the Franciscan Festival of Fine Art to take a tour through the center’s new chapel, built just last year, which features carvedwood statuary by Margarito Mondragon and painted Stations of the Cross by Virginia Maria Romero, both of whom will be exhibiting at this year’s festival.
“We’re encouraging people to walk through the chapel and see it — the carvings and paintings are truly beautiful and I think the building itself even is a work of art,” Fr. Smith said.
Holy Cross Retreat Center is located at 600 Holy Cross Road, two miles south of University Avenue off South Main Street. Entry to the Franciscan Festival of Fine Art is free, though donations are appreciated. For more information, visit www. franciscanfestival.org and www.holycrossretreat.
Sun City Music Festival
South of Las Cruces just across the Texas state line, El Paso’s east-side Ascarate Park will once again this year be ground zero for the Southwest’s largest electronic music festival, Sun City Music Festival, returning for its fifth year Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5-6.
An expected 25,000-plus fans will flood the 400-acre park for two days of techno, trance, house, dubstep, trap and bass on three stages from artists from all over the world — some playing sold-out international shows and consistently ranking in highest-paid and most-influential DJ lists, others still cultivating a healthy underground following on their road to fame — accompanied by dazzling stage shows unique to the area.
This year’s lineup includes headliners Armin van Buren (Saturday) and Hardwell (Sunday) along with Borgore, Cashmere Cat, Nervo, Hot Since 82, Odesza, Zed’s Dead, Galantis, Lane 8, Nervo, Audien, Dubfire, DVBBS, Yellow Claw and more. General admission tickets to Sun City Music Festival are $139 for both days and $80 for one day, plus fees. VIP two-day passes are $189 plus fees. Hours are 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ascarate Park is located at 6900 Delta Drive, in El Paso. All ages are welcome. For more information, a complete artist schedule or to purchase tickets, visit www.suncitymusicfestival. com. Zak Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.