BELEN — It’s that time of year again to enjoys good food, good friends, good music and a good time at the annual Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival.
The day-long event, which is sponsored by the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce, will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 25, along Becker Avenue in Belen.
“Just like its name, we are celebrating the music, the food, the culture and the people of the Rio Abajo valley,” said the chamber’s Executive Director Rhona Baca Espinoza. “It’s amazing to see all the people come out and celebrate our heritage.”
While nearly all community events were canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Espinoza said the board, sponsors, vendors and the community are excited to come together, in-person this year, to celebrate all that is the Rio Abajo.
“We have such an excitement that I can’t remember,” Espinoza said. “From vendors to car show participants and from our wonderful generous sponsors — they’ve come out in droves to support it.”
The day, Espinoza says, will be filled with mostly local entertainment. “The best we’ve ever had,” she described the talent.
Outlaws and Sinners, a country band, will take the stage at 10:30 a.m., followed by Molly Chavez at 12:30 p.m.
“She’s amazing,” Espinoza said. “She sings a variety of music. She’s a gorgeous talent.”
From 2-4 p.m., Keith Sanchez and the Moonthieves will perform, and from 5-7 p.m., Black Pearl Band will take the stage. Rounding out the live music performances will be the Daniel Solis Band from 7-9 p.m.
During Black Pearl Band’s performance, they will be taking a few breaks from their regular set list to play for the dance contest, which includes two-step, jitterbug/swing, twist and ranchera.
“We have some wonderful gift card prizes for the first and second place winners,” the chamber’s executive director said. “They sign up at our table before the contest, which begins at about 5 p.m.”
One of the biggest draws to the Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival is the Classic Car Show, which will be set up down Becker Avenue. At 1:45 p.m., Belen Police Chief James Harris will lead the car show parade.
“We’ve also invited the participants in the Poker Bike Run to be involved,” Espinoza said.
New to this year’s festival is the food court, which will be made of food trucks in the Belen City Hall’s parking lot. Tables and chairs will be situated in the middle.
A beer and wine garden, hosted by Black’s Smuggler Winery and Hub City Brewery, will be located east of the Heart of Belen Gazebo.
“We have the most amazing set of vendors who will be selling everything from T-shirts, different kinds of jewelry, crafts, die-cast toys,” Espinoza said. “It’s going to be awesome. Other vendors are informational vendors who will be giving out information.”
New Mexico Water is also sponsoring a 48-foot obstacle course for children.
The Belen Arts District will also be participating in this year’s event by sponsoring “The Hideout” by the GRID Gallery on Becker Avenue. The space is for creating a fun and inviting area dedicated to local youth, teens and young adults.
There will be shaved ice, a balloon selfie wall, stacks of board games, cornhole, giant Jenga and Connect Four and tiki torches.
Artist Belen Middle School’s art educator Camellia Termini will exhibit work highlighting artwork made by student artists who never returned to middle school art class after transitioning to remote learning in March 2020. The exhibition is colorful, dynamic and celebrates pre-teen life before COVID-19.
“The weather is going to be amazing that day,” Espinoza said. “It’s going to be a beautiful day, and we want everyone to come by and have a great day. This is my favorite day of the year.”
For more information, contact the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce at 463-5558 or visit belenchamber.com.
10 a.m.: Pledge of Allegiance and welcome; Classic Car show begins; DJ music
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Outlaws and Sinners performs
12 p.m.: Beer and Wine tent opens; Poker Bike Run
12:30-1:45 p.m.: Molly Chavez performs
1:30 p.m.: Classic Car Show and Poker Run awards, and parade to follow
2-4 p.m.: Keith Sanchez and the Moonthieves perform
4 p.m.: Renee Antoinette’s School of Dance performs
4:30 p.m.: Belen Goju Ryu performs
5-7 p.m.: Black Pearl Band performs; dance contest, two-step, jitterbug/swing, twist and ranchera
7-9 p.m.: Daniel Solis Band performs; Boardwalk Gymnastics perform
9 p.m.: Free 40-inch flat screen TV raffle drawing; 50/50 raffle drawing and hog raffle drawing
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.