Late summer and early fall is usually the time for the community to come together at local fairs and fiestas, but this year, most of those events have been revamped, canceled or rescheduled.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused organizations to consider the public’s safety and health.
Bosque Farms Community Fair
(July 31-Aug. 2)
The Bosque Farms Fair Board met Wednesday, July 8, after News-Bulletin press time, to make a final decision about this year’s fair. An update to this story will be made on the News-Bulletin’s website when we have more information.
One event that will continue this year is the Bosque Farms Arts and Crafts Fair.
Rose Poitras is the director of the Bosque Farms Community Center and said the event is still set to happen, this time possibly spreading out to both indoor and outdoor tables for vendors.
The annual Bosque Farms Summer Arts and Crafts Fair, which runs during the fair, is still on schedule for Saturday, Aug. 1.
“We are encouraging folks to wear masks and remain socially distant,” Poitras said. “We will not have enough people inside at once to where we violate our building code number, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem with the flow of traffic.”
Valencia County Fair
2019 Valencia County Fair
Danny Goodson of the Valencia County Fair Board confirmed that the fair is canceled, but they might still go ahead with the livestock show depending on what the board agrees to during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“We’re still planning for our livestock show but that could change at any time, we just have to find a way to do it,” Goodson said.
Rhona Baca Espinoza, the executive director of the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce, also announced the county fair parade has been canceled.
National Night Out
The annual National Night Out events in Valencia County have been tentatively pushed back two months, from Aug. 4 to Oct. 6, the first Tuesday of that month.
The move comes at the urging of the organization’s national leadership.
The three local agencies that usually participate in NNO — the Belen and Los Lunas police departments and the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office — are planning to move their events to October.
“That’s what we’re aiming for, depending on the most current public health order,” said Los Lunas Police Chief Naithan Gurule.
Saying the department was “optimistic” about the new date, Gurule said the event was set to happen at Daniel Fernandez Memorial Park on N.M. 314.
Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil said her office has tentatively rescheduled its event for October, at a still-to-be determined location in the unincorporated part of the county.
“We’re trying to look at it as a bit of a silver lining,” Vigil said. “This gives us more time to prepare, to have more for the event.”
The free NNO events typically offer hamburgers and hotdogs, as well as back-to-school supplies and raffle prizes, such as new bicycles and helmets.
Belen Police Chief James Harris said to comply with social distancing requirements, he’s thinking about giving this year’s event a bit of a “carnival atmosphere” to allow people to stay separated.
“We’re looking at holding it at one of the parks — either Anna Becker or Eagle Park — so we have more space,” Harris said.
Belen’s NNO is usually held at the Heart of Belen gazebo on Main Street and Becker Avenue.
Our Lady of Belen Fiestas
The annual Our Lady of Belen Fiestas will be very scaled back this year, but Fr. Clement Niggel says the fiesta committee is working hard to put together something festive for the community.
“As of last week, most of the bands have already canceled as well as the carnival,” Niggel said. “We are looking into the possibilities of still doing a parade.”
Since the New Mexico Department of Transportation won’t allow the traditional parade route along Main Street, Niggel said the city of Belen is willing to let the church use side streets, possibly coming from Eagle Park to the church property at Church and Main streets.
“We will still do Vespers and a Fiesta Mass, of course,” the pastor said. “We might do a fireworks show or maybe a drive-in movie.
“The timing is short but we’re going to do what we can. This week we are really examining what we can do in the next month to pull something together.”
Instead of the traditional Fiesta Queen competition, Niggel said the committee is considering honoring a parishioner who has been a lifelong member and done good works for the parish.
“Or we might honor all the past queens; invite them to wear their tiaras and come if they feel comfortable,” he said. “Right now we have a lot of ideas. If anybody has some great ideas for something festive with social distancing, let us know; we’ll consider anything and everything.”
Niggel said the Friday parade and Saturday event may be scheduled in such a way that Vespers and Mass follow immediately, “so people aren’t coming and going and then having to come back.”
9/11 Memorial Ceremony
Belen Fire Chief Brett Ruff said at this time, the annual 9/11 Memorial ceremony on Main Street most likely won’t be held.
“I’m going to say probably not, due to the gathering restrictions,” Ruff said. “If that changes, we’ll let you know.”
The public health order issued by Kathyleen Kunkel, cabinet secretary of the state Department of Health, caps mass gatherings at five people in most instances.
Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival
The Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce’s annual Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival will likely be canceled this year.
“We haven’t formally canceled it, but I can’t imagine we’re likely to have it,” Espinoza said. “I would love to have it but we’re going to play it by ear as it gets closer.”
The day-long event at the end of September closes Becker Avenue to vehicular traffic at Main Street going east to Fourth Street and Dalies from Main east to Seventh Street for vendors and attendees.
Peralta Dia de Las Fiestas
Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos
The town of Peralta’s Dia de la Fiestas is another event canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councilor Claudio Moya, the chairman for the Peralta Fiestas committee, said due to the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Peralta Fiestas is canceled for 2020.
The event usually includes games, live music and food with fireworks in the evening to end the celebration.
Capt. Tamara Long-Archuleta Memorial Open Karate Championships
Richard and Cindy Long host the Tamara Long Karate Tourney in Belen at Belen High School every October.
This year would’ve been the 37th annual martial arts tournament, sponsored by Belen Goju Ryu Karate, but this year’s event is canceled for the first time since 1993.
“There was no way we could’ve made it happen,” Richard said. “It’s unfortunate. We could have anywhere from 1,000 people in that gym for the event but the governor already said she’s not going to allow that.”
Proceeds from the tournament go to support the memorial scholarship named for Long-Archuleta, who passed away in 2003 while on duty as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service Fall Fest & Heritage Festival
Two fall events that highlight the county’s agricultural lifestyle in October will not be held this year, but they aren’t gone for good.
Laura Bittner, interim director of New Mexico State University’s 4-H Youth Development Department and former agent at the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office, said because the university’s central administration has issued restrictions on the number of youth allowed to participate in in-person programing, the fall events will have to be canceled this year.
“But that doesn’t mean they won’t be back next year. Right now, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we are only allowed five kids in person,” Bittner said.
“We still have a very low percent of employees in the office with the rest working from home. And it’s not just Valencia County but all our offices around the state.”
Bittner said the program’s priority is to keep youth and families safe, and to comply with the governor’s orders.
“There is still a ton of education we are providing in Valencia County. It’s just in different formats,” she said. “We have shifted from in-person to virtual and we will continue with that until central administration says we can do otherwise.”
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.