Breaking with all previous conventions, the upcoming Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio will be three major events wrapped into one; set to collide where they’ve never been presented before.
Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio is scheduled for May 4 from 1-8:30 p.m. and May 5 from 1-7 p.m. For the first time ever, the event will take place at Cielo Grande Recreation Area; taking full advantage of the locale’s almost-installed amphitheater. It’s $5 to get in to Party on the River/Fiesta Del Rio, while children 5 and younger get in for free.
Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio — an annual celebration of local culture, art, food and flair — will be joined by the Valley Vintage Motor Car Club show as well as the Old Timers Balloon Rally.
Sitting behind a desk in a non-assuming office at the Roswell Parks and Recreation Department, Recreation Supervisor Joe Vargas is busy on two lines — his office phone and his cell phone — coordinating the acts, entertainment, balloonists and car enthusiasts that will be part of the weekend event.
“There’s been three major events that happened on the same weekend … which are now all combined,” Vargas said. These include the Old Timers Balloon Rally, which, now in its 26th year, has always taken place at the Wool Bowl soccer complex, and an antique car and motorcycle show.
Bill Glen, member of the Old Timers and balloon rally organizer, said the event at Cielo Grande will light up — quite literally — with hot air balloons on May 4 around 6:15 a.m. At that point, balloon enthusiasts from across the nation would have gotten warmed up after a visit to area schools May 3, where they plan to demonstrate the craft of ballooning to children.
On May 4, more than 60 balloons will take off from Cielo Grande during the early morning hours, dotting the sky with floating samples of the quintessential New Mexican pastime.
Also on May 4, the balloonists will help The First Tee of the Pecos Valley with a golf ball drop. For $10, one may purchase a ticket with a matching number on a golf ball. One thousand numbered golf balls will be dropped over a golf hole from a tethered balloon, floating about 75 feet in the air.
The four golf balls to come closest to the hole will win prizes for those with corresponding tickets. Adrienne Fields, executive director of The First Tee of the Pecos Valley, said first place wins $1,500, second place gets a big screen TV, third place gets a laptop computer and fourth place gets a $250 gift certificate to Sam’s Club. Tickets may be purchased at the NMMI Golf Course.
At dusk on May 4, balloonists will join members of the Goddard High School band to do a fire concert, during which balloonists will light up the tanks of their balloons in sequence with music played by the band. Members of the GHS band are selling tickets for the fire concert for $3; all proceeds will benefit the band.
May 4 will be the only day that the VVMCC will be at Cielo Grande. Touted as the oldest car show in New Mexico, VVMCC’s vintage car and motorcycle show is now in its 39th year. It is free to attend, however, there will be a charge for food sold by the Roswell Assurance Home and ice cream sold by high school students.
VVMCC member Rita Kane-Doerhoefer said it’s not too late to join the car show and that any kind of car is welcome. It costs $25 to enter a vehicle, and those who enter get two wristbands for Party on the River.
Vehicles will be set up from 7-9 a.m. Judging begins at 9 a.m. and trophies will be handed out around 3 p.m.
Kane-Doerhoefer said there’s no way to know how many awards will be given, as entries are still being accepted and award categories depend on the number and kinds of vehicles at the event. However, she expects more than 100 vehicles to be at the show.
Cars on display will include two of Kane-Doerhoefer’s own vehicles: a 1957 Thunderbird and a 1969 GTO convertible.
For a donation of $5, car show attendees will get the chance to win an 18-foot car hauler. Tickets will be sold during the event and proceeds will benefit the car club in its support of other events and nonprofit organizations.
May 4 will be dedicated to the “Party on the River” portion of the event. Typically featuring country western music, the day’s entertainment headliner is Gloriana, a country trio from Nashville who’s been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Gloriana’s second studio album, “A Thousand Miles Left Behind,” was released last year and debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s country albums chart.
May 5 is all for Fiesta del Rio. Intended to feature Hispanic/Tejano music, the entertainment headliner will be Al Hurricane, Al Hurricane Jr. and Ram Herrera.
Née Alberto Nelson Sanchez, Al Hurricane is an Albuquerque native known for his rock ‘n’ roll and Latin rhythms. He has a repertoire filled with cumbias, rancheras and oldies tunes. He’s performed with artists such as Fats Domino, Marvin Gaye and Chubby Checker. His son Al Hurricane Jr. has followed in his father’s musical path.
Tejano musician Ramiro (Ram) Herrera started making a name for himself in the early 1980s. The Grammy-nominated artist has won recognitions as Vocalist, Entertainer, Song and Album of the Year.
For Vargas, hosting Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio at Cielo Grande was a logical choice, despite the fact that the amphitheater — a million-dollar project — is not quite complete. Still, he said, grass is growing in the area and there is a slope, perfect for viewing the headlining acts. There is also plenty of room to roam at Cielo Grande.
“One of the advantages of being (at Cielo Grande) is that there’s plenty of parking,” Vargas said. “There’s just never been enough parking, plus, we’ve outgrown the park and the zoo.” Recreation Superintendent Laurie Jerge agreed and said she’s excited to see so many events happen during one weekend, all in one place.
“Joe thought we should (bring) all three events under one sky,” Jerge said. “It’s guaranteed to bring more entertainment for the entire family. It’s going to have so much variety.”
What has not changed about the event is its volleyball and flag football tournaments, activities for children such as Kids Korner and inflatables, and a multitude of vendors, including about 40 different food stands.
Initially known as Party on the Pecos/Cinco de Mayo, the weekend celebration was first held May 4, 1996, thanks to the sponsorship of the Roswell community and the Roswell Parks and Recreation Department.
Cahoon Park was home to Party on the Pecos/Cinco de Mayo from 1996-2003. The event changed its name to Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio in 2004. Also that year, the event moved to the Spring River Park and Zoo, where it was held annually until 2009, when it returned to Cahoon Park.
Despite all the hard work that’s gone into coordinating the 2013 event, Jerge said the success of the upcoming Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio depends on the Roswell community.
“It’s really important for the community to support and embrace (Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio),” Jerge said, noting that the event this year will make history.
For more information about Party on the River/Fiesta del Rio, call the Roswell Parks and Recreation Department, 624-6720. For information about the volleyball and football tournaments, contact the Yucca Center at 624-6719. Those who wish to be a vendor may call Shelia McKnight at 624-6718.
To purchase tickets for the golf ball drop, call Adrienne Fields at 623-4444. To enter the car show, call 627-8292.