Above: Steamroller-size art at the Southwest Print Fiesta. Photography by Jay Hemphill.
Using yucca fiber, animal sinew, and hides from buffalo, elk, and deer, Native peoples for centuries crafted footwear that carried them across deserts, over mountains, and through forests. Especially handy craftspeople adorned theirs with shells, porcupine quills, and fringes, but when European settlers brought glass beads with them, moccasins truly turned into art. In Stepping Out: 10,000 Years of Walking the West, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe shares gorgeous sandals and moccasins and explains what each reveals about different tribes, their cultures, and their sense of identity.
Archaeological sites have yielded numerous examples for the exhibit, but curator Maxine McBrinn also tapped into modern-day makers like artists Teri Greeves, Lisa Telford, and Emil Her Many Horses, whose creations elevate utility into fine art, sometimes with implausibly high heels. The exhibit runs August 27, 2017, to September 3, 2018. (505) 476-1269; indiandartsandculture.org
New Mexico heat earns international cred when roasters pop up at farmers’ markets and on street corners, turning out freshly seared chile peppers. The southern New Mexico agricultural hub of Hatch is Grand Central for this foodie favorite, the love of which hits fever pitch during the Hatch Chile Festival, held Labor Day weekend, September 2–3. Watch eager eaters line up for the chile-eating contest, taste the latest in chile recipes, and string up a ristra of red, green, and yellow fruits. Yes, it’s a fruit. (575) 635-1582; hatchchilefest.com
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1712
It’s not everyday that longtime Santa Fe residents wearing silver helmets and velvet capes ride horseback into the city’s Plaza to reenact Don Diego de Vargas’ 1692 Reconquest. But once a year, Fiesta de Santa Fe, September 1–10, kindles what may well be the oldest community celebration in the country.
Kick off the week at the annual purging of woe when Zozobra, aka Old Man Gloom, is once again set ablaze. The 50-foot-tall marionette is stuffed with notes inscribed with people’s sorrows, including the occasional hard-fought city construction permit or even divorce papers (burnzozobra.com).
Get up early on September 8 for the mayoral reading at Rosario Chapel of a 1712 proclamation calling for an annual remembrance. Revisions are made to the script each year, in part to incorporate feedback from Native Americans. (Last year, the proclamation was read in Tewa as well as Spanish for the first time.) The entrada, a march from the chapel to the Plaza for the annual re-creation of the Reconquest, is the day’s main event, and onlookers squeeze under every portal along the route.
Throughout the week, browse booths of hand-crafted jewelry and pottery at the juried arts-and-crafts show, break out the costumes—and bring the dog—for the Children’s Pet Parade, and listen to mariachi musicians while watching the sun set from the Santa Fe Opera. (505) 471-8763; santafefiesta.org
FIT TO PRINT
To make an all-caps case for how enduringly powerful the first method of mass-producing the written word is, the Southwest Print Fiesta recruits a steamroller to ink large-scale prints on the streets of Silver City. The resulting canvases can require two sets of hands to lift. Visitors can see some of the best works from the Southwest’s vibrant and varied community of printmakers. Silver City alone boasts classic intaglio prints of gnarled desert trees and the curls of the Gila River by M. Fred Barraza and the sassy, feminist declarations of Power and Light Press. Get bedazzled, but get ink-stained, too: Workshops welcome neophytes and press hounds alike, September 1–3. (575) 538-2505; southwestprintfiesta.org
Grammy-winning duo Big and Rich brings boot-stomping country to headline the 79th annual New Mexico State Fair, September 7–17 in Albuquerque. Step aside from the big stage to explore the fair’s free Spectaculars, with duck and pig races, pony rides, and an alligator wrangler. Last year’s fan favorite, the Ma’Ceo circus, returns with a show of acrobatics and equestrian stunts.
Catch PRCA Rodeo events just as their season approaches its highest-stakes contests, as well as Rank Lil Buckers, for riders aged 7–14. Stuff yourself silly with green chile cheeseburgers and tour the Unique Foods Contest, which often combines green chile and a deep fryer. Last year produced green-chile maple bacon mini-doughnuts.
“We represent everything that is great in the state of New Mexico with one event,” declares Dan Mourning, general manager of the fair. “Even if you never step on a ride or don’t buy any food, there is so much to do, you can’t do it all in one day.” (505) 222-9700; statefair.exponm.com
4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Once the theme of “Space” was set for Elephant Days, September 8–10, and a promise issued to prove that “Elephant Butte is out of this world,” locals started crafting drivable rocket ships and building sci-fi costumes for the annual parade’s blastoff. A carnival, barbecue rib contest, beer garden, vendors, and face painting make for an event “just like an old-fashioned get-together,” says Will Dooley of the town’s chamber of commerce. The space theme honors nearby Spaceport America, which hosts student rocket launches and drone races. (575) 744-4708; nmmag.us/ElephantDays17
When Jill McQueary began drafting scripts for actors to play people from Farmington’s past, she went to those who knew them best: their still-living relatives. Some of the descendants then joined the cast and will stand among gravestones at Farmington’s Greenlawn Cemetery to tell their stories at the fifth annual Dining with the Dead, September 9. Pass through the iron gates to hear about notorious outlaws, a pioneering female banker, and the town physician credited with dodging a conflict with local tribes.
“It was the Wild West,” McQueary says. “That’s what makes it so interesting.” One warning to ghost lovers: The one-night-only event—the dining portion of which is a barbecue dinner—routinely sells out. (505) 325-5931; nmmag.us/DiningDead
IN THE SWEET PIE AND PIE
Welcome to the land where green chile goes with everything. Perhaps nowhere else is that better driven home than in the fluffy crusts and tasty forkfuls that fill bellies at the Pie Town Pie Festival, September 9. Classics like cherry and peach are plated alongside innovative twists, but the one not to miss is New Mexico apple pie, which adds green chile to the all-American staple. Want more? There are pie-making and pie-eating contests, and the town crowns its 37th Pie Queen. (575) 772-2696; pietownfestival.com
FACE THE MUSIC
It’s not just the hills but the prairies, too, that come alive with music in mid-September. In Red River, Southwest Pickers launches the 43rd annual Southwest Pickers Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival, September 14–17. Contemporary American bluegrass band and repeat Grammy nominee Blue Highway headlines (southwestpickers.org).
Also venture to the wide-open prairie skies around Cimarron and the multi-genre ShortGrass Music Festival September 15–17. It opens with Appalachian-style fiddle and banjo music from Spencer Branch at the Mercantile in downtown Cimarron. That’s followed by Latin music icon Tish Hinojosa at the rodeo grounds.
Youths under 18 get in free. The concerts, says festival director Landon Young, are “a way of letting them know there’s something outside of what they can see on their iPhones.” (575) 376-2417; shortgrassfestival.com
For the properly trained picker, a trip through the forests, fields, and waters of the Gila region yields a bounty of edible plants and medicinal herbs. The Gila River Festival, September 21–24 in Silver City, preserves and shares that wisdom in workshops that include making use of weeds, gathering acorns, and milling mesquite. Aspiring naturalists can attend field trips on birding and rock art, and fly-fish or kayak on the Gila River. Keynoter Winona LaDuke founded Native Harvest to preserve traditional Ojibwe foods. Roxanne Swentzell, author of The Pueblo Food Experience, will talk about a return to indigenous recipes (see Rooted in Place).
The Gila River Extravaganza augments all that science and nature with plenty of art, including performances from spoken-word artist Lyla June Johnston and the Fort Sill Apache Fire Dancers, plus food tastings and a Monsoon Puppet Parade. (575) 538-8078; gilariverfestival.org
ART FOR ALL
“Everything is new—we’re kind of reinventing this year,” says Ricky Pass, vice president of the board that runs the Taos Fall Arts Festival. After losing its home three years ago, the festival has repeatedly reinvented ways to show 400 pieces of art. For the past two years, that’s meant divvying works among various venues, but for this year’s festival, September 22–October 1, they’re back to one easy-to-navigate space.
The shuffling has fed creative bursts, boosted attendance, and this year seen more cross-discipline efforts. Plus it’s open. Instead of a juried show, wall space is available to anyone in the county, making room for emerging artists. Set in the Guadalupe Gym, it may even recall the 1913 Armory Show, the first major exhibition of modern art in New York City—one that Taos Society of Artists icon Mabel Dodge Luhan helped organize.
Joining the art are flamenco dancers, live music, plays, poetry readings, and the Taos Environmental Film Festival. For many, the highlight is The Paseo, September 22–23. The all-outdoors nighttime art festival (see Global Villager) includes installations, projections, and performance-based artworks that draw a crowd more interested in art as an experience. “People are passionate about every different form,” Pass says. (575) 770-6392, taosfallarts.com; (575) 613-0601, paseoproject.org
THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD
Albuquerque’s showcase of world music, ¡Globalquerque!, September 22–23, opens doors to sounds audiences might otherwise never encounter. This year’s lineup includes a polyphonic choir from the nation of Georgia, an Indian slide guitarist, a Spanish hand percussionist, and traditional Korean musicians. Those who crave a tour guide can find it in workshops and lectures, with rare opportunities to talk to music makers about their craft or even learn the dances to match each import. It’s a fun exploration, but co-producer Tom Frouge sees renewed purpose in this 13th year of the festival.
“Given the climate of our country and the world, I think it’s more important than ever to represent different cultures and ideas and people together and in one space,” he says. globalquerque.org