The July Fourth holiday in Taos felt like the first busy weekend the town has seen since the pandemic began. Local officials are looking to maintain that momentum for the remainder of the summer and into the fall.
People were scattered about town throughout the day Sunday (July 4), eating free pancakes with Mayor Dan Barrone in the plaza, enjoying local tunes at the Taos Roundup (a music crawl that ended at Revolt Gallery), and rocking out at the first free concert at Kit Carson Park since 2019, headlined by Los Lobos. Attendees at the Rainbow Family Gathering added to the crowds seen around the county this month.
Looking back at the weekend, town of Taos Manager Rick Bellis said all of the events went off without a hitch. At the mayor’s pancake breakfast, the town managed to feed approximately 1,000 people. Taos Pueblo Gov. Clyde M. Romero Sr. broke the COVID-shaped piñata on the first try. “There was a real intercultural feel to the day with representation from each culture in the dances, presentations, music and audiences,” said Bellis.
The free concert event at Kit Carson Park drew over 6,000 people, according to early calculations, and there were likely about 2,000 more who were coming and going. All in all, it was the busiest the town has been since before the pandemic. Bellis said they have had "nothing but positive feedback so far. The music was great and had something for everyone and the fireworks – especially the finale – were the best yet."
Heading into a major event weekend like this after coming out of a worldwide pandemic, Bellis said there was a lot that could have gone awry. “If any single weekend, holiday or event had the potential for everything or anything to go wrong this was probably it," he said. "We are a very tense, divided country right now and as much as there was no precedent for going into a global public health and economic shutdown, there is no model for coming out of it.”
Bellis said a lot of different measures were put into place “relating to public health, public safety, maintaining a family atmosphere, minimizing impact on businesses and the park/plaza, and providing a preference to locals.
“If people enjoyed themselves and it felt “normal”, then the Town did its job and we are all very happy. The weekend went perfectly, exactly as we had planned and hoped for.”
He said they have learned going forward that having smaller, more spread out events can be just as good as a jam-packed event. “We are learning that we don’t need to sell 10,000 tickets… to impact the local economy the way we want to.” He suggested that in the future, the town will participate in “smaller, unique events… with our regional partners. Our events have to be just as much about entertaining and rewarding our locals that do all the work year-round as about tourists,” he said.
Heading into the latter half of the summer and fall, the town is expecting record breaking numbers, with “sold out or near capacity hotels and air flights, summer crowds at restaurants, a very strong retail season and an excellent year for the arts and galleries,” said Bellis, adding that the steadiness will likely remain through the fall season. “Then we will be adjusting our rules in anticipation of the gold rush for recreational marijuana.”