More than a hundred people came out to the Kids Matter Music Fest held Saturday (Aug. 21) in Questa, an event organized to raise funds to build a skate park to give kids a safe place to recreate.
Sponsored by the child-wellness nonprofit Vida Del Norte Drug Free Coalition and the workforce training nonprofit Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, the fundraiser was kept alcohol-free in an effort to shift community norms around substance abuse. The day included live music, an inflatable obstacle course and more.
"We have never had a big community music festival without any alcohol," said Janie Corinne, Alcohol Policy Workgroup Coordinator with the child-wellness nonprofit Taos Alive. "It's the beginning of letting our community feel what it's like to have fun and enjoy music and come together and not depend on alcohol to have a good time."
The event raised $1,500 through ticket and food sales for a new skate park, to be located in the municipal park in Questa.
"When we talk to the kids, we might think they want a swimming pool, or tennis courts or whatever. No, they want a skate park," said Corinne. "So our coalition of community groups is actively in the process of figuring out what it would take to get one here in Questa."
Vida Del Norte plans to design the skate park over the winter, and break ground in Questa next spring.
The music festival, held in a grassy field across from the old La Cienega School and Gym Buildings, included live performances from Mariachi Cielo and The UZ band. Mariachi Questa, made up of middle and high school music students, also performed.
Alyse Lovato, 13, played trumpet with Mariachi Questa. "I think it's really fun. It keeps our culture alive," she said.
Members of the New Mexico National Guard's Joint Counterdrug Task Force were also on hand to support the event.
"We're working on building community partnerships, working to combat the drug problem that we see across the nation," said SFC Howard.
Children spent the day running the National Guard's inflatable obstacle course.
"The kids love when we come out because we bring different things," said Howard. "Whether it's a static display for a helicopter, could be the bouncy house, could be rock walls. They love when we come out and support different events."
Howard also provided a lesson about getting drunk, with the help of visual impairment goggles. Kids would wear the goggles to simulate drunkenness, and then try (and usually fail) to perform basic motor functions, like kicking a ball or giving a high-five.
Vida Del Norte began hosting a Family Movie Night on Thursdays last year and recently added a Teen Night on Friday nights as a way to keep kids safe from alcohol and drugs.
"The majority of kids, when you ask them, 'why do you go to parties?' it's because they want to socialize," said Maria Gonzalez, a program coordinator with Vida Del Norte.
Her group partners with Taos Alive in the Refuse to Provide Alcohol to Minors campaign, an outreach program that invites the community to sign a pledge to not serve alcohol to minors. The two groups used Saturday's festival to kick off the second phase of their Refuse To Provide campaign, called Redefine the Word Party.
Alianna Gonzalez, 14, has been a young volunteer with Vida Del Norte for the last two years, and was working at the Kids Matter Music Fest.
"I like to help people around the community that are struggling with alcohol and drug abuse," she said. "Honestly, I just like helping out."
For more information, visit vidadelnorte.com.