BELEN — There are a lot of reasons to attend the 16th annual Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival in Belen on Saturday — the food, the music, the cars, the games and so much more.

New to this year’s event, which is sponsored by the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce, is a Food Truck Festival with more than a handful of trucks that will deliver about anything your taste buds desire.

Rhona Baca Espinoza, the executive director of GBCC, said this year’s festival is one not to miss, especially with all the food that will be available.

“We decided to incorporate a Food Truck Festival with our Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival,” Espinoza said. “We have had two or three food trucks in past years, and we’ve had other food vendors who use tables and a canopy, and we still have those, but this year, we were able to pick up five extra food trucks and we’re pretty excited about it.”

Rutilio’s restaurant in Los Lunas will have for sale burgers, steak fries, chile fries; A&W will serve root beer floats; Triple J Ice Cream truck is bringing ice cream.

“We will also be having a food truck Navajo tacos, hamburgers, nachos and more,” she said. “There will also be Hawaiian Shaved Ice; Rodriguez Mexican Food will bring tacos, nachos and burritos.”

There will be six food trucks, but there will be a lot of food vendors available, including Big Mike’s Burgers and More, and others selling turkey legs, kettle corn, lemonade, shaved ice, caramel and candy apples, cotton candy, roasted corn, ribbon fries, hot dogs, corn dogs and more.

There will also be a lot of nonfood vendors, where visitors can buy everything from arts and crafts, children’s toys, art, games, rustic crosses, crocheted items, jewelry, handmade soaps and lotions and more.

The Pilot Club of Belen will once again have a cake walk, and will be raffling off two children’s bicycles and helmets.

The day-long event, which is held on Becker Avenue from Main Street to the Belen Public Library, begins at 10 a.m. with the national anthem sung by Molly Chavez, who will also perform from 10:15 a.m. to noon. Deejay Kevin Michael will provide his services throughout the event.

“We’re so excited because we’ve added two additional live bands,” Espinoza said.

Other live entertainment will be provided by Keith Sanchez and the Moonthieves, from noon to 2 p.m.; Olvide, from 2:15-3:45 p.m.; and Black Pearl Band, from 5-7 p.m.

Some of the other performances will include Renee Antoinette’s School of Dance Company at 3:45 p.m.; Belen Goju Ryu Karate at 4:30 p.m.; Jazzercize youth group at will perform at about 6 p.m.; and Lori’s Boardwalk Gymnastics will take the stage at 7 p.m.

The Belen Consolidated Schools will once again host a health fair, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Belen City Hall. Visitors will be able to donate blood, get mammograms, get a flu shot and visit various health-related vendors.

One of the most popular events at the Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival is the Classic and Muscle Car Show, which begins at 10:15 a.m., and ends at 2 p.m. with a car parade down Becker Avenue.

“We have a lot of people who have signed up and a lot more we’re expecting to sign up,” Espinoza said. “Last year we had 70 cars, and we’re expecting more this year — maybe up to 100. We should have a really big car show. They’re coming in from all over the state.”

The car show is sponsored by Pavlos Panagopoulos and Aristech Surfaces, who hand makes the plaques for the winners.

Other activities at this year’s annual event is a climbing wall that is sponsored by the New Mexico National Guard, which will be located in the parking lot of the Bank of Albuquerque. New Mexico Water is also bringing a 70-foot water obstacle course, which will be in the Belen City Hall parking lot. Craig Tire is also sponsoring a shooting gallery.

A beer and wine garden, hosted by Fat Sat’s Bar and Grill and Black’s Smuggler Winery, will also be available beginning at noon in the grass area west of the bank.

The annual charity bike run, hosted by the American Legion, will start at The Home Depot in Los Lunas with registration at 9:30 a.m. and they will take off at 11 a.m. The entry fee is a $10 donation. The run, which benefits the Belen High School NJROTC, will end at the Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival in Belen at about 12:30 p.m.

“We’re going to have plenty of tables and chairs for everyone,” Espinoza said. “Last year, we didn’t have any, and people didn’t stay. So we ordered hundreds of chairs and a lot of tables for people to sit and enjoy the day.

“We’re also going to have tables and chairs at each vendor booth, like little restaurant spaces.”

During the Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival, the Belen Arts District, including the Belen Art League, the Bugg Lights Museum, Books on Becker and Studio 508, will be holding and art market, where more than 20 artists will be selling their wares.

The Belen Public Library will holding a presentation, “Women’s Art, Women’s Bodies, and Censorship,” from 3-5 p.m. in the lecture hall. Dr. Paula Castillo, an acclaimed contemporary artist and art historian; Amanda Romero, an experimental artist and musician; will speak. The Belen Art League will also have a special exhibit titled “Art By and About Women.”

One of the other new events is a karaoke contest, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., which Espinoza promises she won’t enter. Deejay Jerry Jaramillo will be the judge.

Wells Fargo is also sponsoring a four-passenger golf cart that will shuttle people from the festival to the car show and art market and back all day.

The dance contest, sponsored and judged by Renee Antoinette School of Dance, will be held at 8:30 p.m. Participants can enter a number of categories, including the two step, jitterbug/swing, ranchera or the twist.

One of the most popular events at Rio Abajo are the raffles — one for a hog and another for a 40-inch television — and a 50/50, sponsored by the Belen MainStreet Partnership. Both raffles, along with the bike raffle for the Pilot Club of Belen, will be held at 9 p.m.

“The best part is it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day — 80 degrees and sunny, with a 10 percent chance of rain and no wind,” Espinoza said. “Come out and enjoy the day. It’s always free admission.

“People can come out in the morning and enjoy the car show and the wellness fair, then come back later and enjoy the vendors and music, and then at night, they can come and see or enter the karaoke and dance contest,” she said. “There’s something for everyone — every age.”

Espinoza said the purpose of the annual festival is to bring the community together and to celebrate the Rio Abajo — the music, the food, the art and the people.”

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.