BELENAs ambassadors for the 2023 Our Lady of Belen Fiestas, this year’s padrinos — Dante and Margaret Berry, and Roxanne and Richard Martinez — are carrying on a 230-year tradition. 

Not only is it the duty of the two couples to make sure the church is cleaned and decorated for the annual celebration, they are also tasked with “knowing everything” about the event. 

All life-long members of OLB, the four have attended the Fiestas throughout the years and feel comfortable with the responsibility. 

Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photo
The padrinos for the 230th Our Lady of Belen Fiestas are Dante and Margaret Berry, left, and Roxanne and Richard Martinez, right, and Father Alberto Mutebi, center.

Roxanne and Margaret said serving as padrinos has given them a look behind the scenes and insight into how the event is organized and planned, something they didn’t get just by attending. 

They all said being asked to take on these roles is an honor, with Dante noting the OLB Fiestas may well be the largest church fiesta in the state. 

“I know we’re in the top five,” he said. 

Dante and Margaret remember the Fiestas being the last big event of the summer before school started, giving them a chance to connect with classmates before hitting the books. 

“It changed as I grew up,” Margaret said when asked what she liked the best about Fiestas as a youth. “When I was young, I remember it made my mother so happy. Then, since it was usually the week before school started, you could get a feel for people. And, of course, you got new clothes!” 

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The Fiestas run Friday, Aug. 18, through Sunday, Aug. 20, and feature something for everyone including bingo, a carnival, the parade, live auctions, a car show, live music every day and, of course, those famous fiesta burgers.  

The fiesta grounds are at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church, 101-A N. 10th St. 

Promising the weekend will be the biggest event Belen has had in a long time, entertainment organizer for the Fiestas, Bryan Mascarena, said he’s thrilled to be going back to all live bands throughout the event. 

“The carnival is going to be the biggest we’ve ever had,” Mascarena said. “It will be set up in two different areas on the grounds. It’s double what we had last year.” 

He expects record numbers of people this year, surpassing the 10,000 attendees the Fiesta drew in 2018. 

This year’s parade marshals, Belen City Councilor Frank Ortega and his wife, Louise, are life-long members of the church, and said being chosen to lead the parade was an honor. In addition, Frank said he’s looking forward to throwing candy to the parade-goers. 

Ainsley Casias-McKay, 14, is the multi-media artist whose work is featured on this year’s poster. When contemplating how to portray this year’s fiesta theme — El Amor de Dios es mas grande que el Cielo (God’s love is greater than Heaven) — Casias-McKay said she eventually settled on a simple solution. 

“The theme is about how God loves everyone in the entire world, so I thought, ‘What if I showed him hugging the world?’” she said. 

Wristbands for the carnival are on sale at the parish office, 101-A N. 10th, for $25, and will be $35 at the carnival entrance. 


Parade marshals: Frank and Louise Ortega 

Queen candidates: Madison Cox, 17, Ella Zamora, 17, and Cheyenne Gutierrez, 17 

Princess candidates: Anastasia Ward, 5, Aleah Jaramillo, 9, Jocelyn Jaramillo, 6, Aleena Gutierrez, 9, Isabella Sanchez, 9, Aliyana Sisneros, 8, Shioleyann Chavez, 6, and Isabella Mirabal, 8 

Poster art winner: Ainsley Casias-McKay, 14 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.