Almost everybody who has ever attended the Fourth of July Parade in Arroyo Seco says they love it because it's just so "funky." Now, funky can mean a lot of things, but in this …
Almost everybody who has ever attended the Fourth of July Parade in Arroyo Seco says they love it because it's just so "funky." Now, funky can mean a lot of things, but in this context it usually refers to the particular idiosyncrasies locals have come to identify as being a part of our character - things like the cars we drive (dusty, full of political stickers), the way we dress (a suit is only reserved for funerals or christenings), the things we do (stopping in the middle of the road for gossip). Stuff like that.
But, nowhere is our freak flag flown the proudest than at the annual Fourth of July Parade in Arroyo Seco.
The parade starts at noon, but it's best to get there early.
To find out what we can expect this year, we asked Seco businessman Jack Leustig, who has kind of stepped back from organizing this year, but since he seems to know details as much as anybody, we pinned him down. Here's what he had to say …
What are the most important things to know about the event for first time visitors?
I think the most important thing to know is that the parade is fun for young and old. Beside the simple, often comical floats and groups in the parade, there are all the summer treats; ice cream, snow cones, hot dogs, etc. Also this it is a long-standing community event that gives the visitor a real look at the local culture.
What makes the Arroyo Seco Independence Day Parade unique?
I think the most unique aspect of the parade is that it simply seems to materialize on the Fourth. The merchants who are behind the organization have no idea who or what will show up.
What new or unusual floats or participants will we see this year?
Again, we have no idea what we will see but we do have cash prizes in six categories (I do not have amounts yet). They are Most Creative, Most Patriotic, Best Children's Entry, Best on Wheels, Best Under 12 Years Old and Best Animal Entry.
Arroyo Seco is a small community - how do you handle the large crowds that attend this event?
Being a small village, the influx of a huge crowd has always been a challenge to control. The biggest improvement to controlling the crowds has been an improved and closer relationship with both the road department (Department of Transportation) and the state police. This started four years ago and has improved year by year. By including them more in our organizational work, it seems they have become more invested and helpful. I would also add that the sheriff's department and our volunteer fire department are very helpful along with the volunteers who help on parade day.
Finally, the lion's share of the work always falls on a few dedicated merchants who give many long hours to the work and organization. I will mention the four individuals that I think contribute the most. Patty and Pat Reza (they own Santos y Mas and Patty also works at the Mercantile) organize and do a tremendous amount of the work to keep this tradition alive. Francesca Medina handles the communications with the DOT, police, insurance, etc. Liz Mercuri does the graphics (posters and ads). I should also mention KNCE-FM 93.5 has provided a sound system and announcer for the last four years.
What are some do's and don'ts to be aware of?
Enjoy the parade and the village and stay hydrated. If you are a participant, don't throw things into the crowd. If you are a viewer, keep off of the pavement and give horses a wide berth.
Who is allowed to be in the parade - will there be horses?
Anyone can be in the parade. Show up and line up. But if you would like to be eligible for a cash prize, you have to register at the Mercantile. Horses are allowed but be sensible about the horses you bring. Leave the skittish ones in the barn.
Who is in charge of putting the parade together?
No single person is in charge of the parade. A small group of the village merchants do virtually all the work.
Does the parade receive financial support - if so, from who?
The merchants that are part of our local merchant's association (Arroyo Seco Village Association) pay the awards and insurance cost out of our account funded by our dues.
How much of a boost does the parade create for the Arroyo Seco economy?
Lots of ice cream is sold and, depending on the year, we have several antidotes of good sales during the short time the businesses are open on the Fourth.
What are the parade's origins (when did it start, who first put it together)?
The parade was started in 1996 by a group of artists in Seco called the ART LAB. To my understanding, Te Zins was the "nondirector" (his term) of the group and they put the parade on as a community building event. As I know you are aware, at that time the community was much less socially integrated than it is today. ART LAB dissolved in 1998 but the parade was established. It had a life of its own and, to some degree, the merchants had no choice but to attempt to control what was going to happen in the village on the Fourth. It has been a lot of work but when it comes off well, a lot of Taoseños have a wonderful time.
More Fourth of July fun
• Don’t forget the Taos Mayor Dan Barrone’s free pancake breakfast on Taos Plaza starting at 8 a.m..
• Taos Ski Valley Fourth of July events start at noon and include music, a parade and, maybe, the Duck Races.
• The Village of Angel Fire also starts the day off with a pancake breakfast and Fourth of July parade. Later enjoy an evening fireworks display over Eagle Nest Lake and surrounded by mountains of Moreno Valley.
• Red River Fourth of July Parade starts at 10 a.m. Billed as the “largest parade in Northern New Mexico,” this event features patriotically festooned floats, wagons, vehicles and walking participants.
• Back in Taos, check out the annual Taos Veterans Creative Arts Festival starting at 10 a.m. Vendors include Native art, sculptures, paintings, jewelry and food. It’s at the corner of Camino de la Placita and Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
• Up in Eagle Nest, it’s the Firemen’s Fourth of July Barbecue, with a parade at 2 p.m. Fireworks at 9 p.m. Tickets are $11 per plate.
• Also in Taos, the Freedom from Violence Art & Craft Fair starts at 11 a.m. and features local and regional artists and craftspeople to benefit Community Against Violence. Located on Civic Plaza Drive, three blocks north of Taos Plaza.
• Michael Martin Murphey’s Rockin’ 3M Supper and Concert. The famous cowboy singer performs while visitors partake of a delicious chuck wagon supper under the stars in a scenic amphitheater. Location is 2.4 miles north of High Street in Red River on Bitter Creek Road. Tickets are $58, $52 seniors, $29 youth 7-13, free to children and 6 and under.
From all of us, have a safe and happy holiday.
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