A shower of must see events
May this year brings two of Silver City's signature events — the Tour of the Gila bike race (which in other years has begun in late April) at the start of the month and the Blues Festival on Memorial Day weekend. Around and between those standout events are plenty of other things to do, including Cinco de Mayo, with celebrations in both Mesilla and Deming.
The 26th annual SRAM Tour of the Gila will bring 160 pro bike racers to town May 2-6. An upgrade of the race to the UCI Racing Calendar and America's Tour (putting it one notch below the World Teams who race in the Tour de France) means some changes this year, as the team portion is now by invitation only. As a result, officials say it's the best field ever. Last year's champion Francisco Mancebo will return along with his Competitive Cyclist Racing Team and other contenders including United Healthcare and Team Type One. Champion Systems will bring a China-based team to compete in the US for the first time.
This year's Tour also features an unprecedented number of ancillary events, starting with a First Friday kickoff on May 4 downtown, including a street dance with Illusion Band. Saturday, May 5, brings the bike racers downtown along with citizens races, a kids' bike rodeo and an Expo with live music, a beer tent, vendors and food. That evening there's a Bike Movie Night double-feature at the Silco.
Also mark May 4 on your calendar for WILL's Reflections of an Artist, featuring ABC and CBS News correspondent Judy Muller with local author and conservationist Dutch Salmon. It's at the WNMU Global Resource Center.
The following weekend, May 11 and 12, Seedboat Center for the Arts brings R. Carlos Nakai to Silver City for two concerts. Of Navajo-Ute heritage, Nakai is the world's premier performer of the Native American flute. Ironically, he began his musical studies on the trumpet, but a car accident ruined his embouchure; he was later given a traditional cedar flute as a gift and challenged to master it. Nakai's debut album, "Changes," was released by Canyon Records in 1983, the first of 35 with that label.
Saturday, May 12, also brings the Silver City Farmers' Market back to Mainstreet Plaza off Bullard Street. And at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, it's a day for Remembering the Past; the special history program spotlights Pershing's Punitive Expedition, the role of Apache scouts, and Geronimo.
Then it's critters on the agenda, May 19, as the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance presents two free forums on skunks, at the Gila Senior Center in the afternoon and WNMU's Harlan Hall in the evening. A Skunk by Any Other Name features UNM expert Jerry Dragoo.
If it's Memorial Day weekend, it must be the 17th annual Silver City Blues Festival, the Southwest's largest free music fest. The blues begin Friday night, May 25, with Pat "Guitar Slim" Chase at the Buffalo Dance Hall. Then the tunes shift to Gough Park, May 26-27, where Saturday's headliner is Trampled Under Foot and Sunday spotlights Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys. Trampled Under Foot — siblings Danielle, Kris and Nick Schnebelen — first gained prominence in 2008, winning the International Blues Challenge in Memphis; they've since picked up awards including Blues Matters Writers Poll International's Best Newcomer, Best Studio Album, Best Band, and Best Vocalist, in addition to nominations for Blues Music Award's Best Instrumentalist for Bass and Band of the Year. Rosie Ledet and her band began performing in 1994 throughout the Texas-Louisiana triangle; her newest CD is "Come Get Some." She's among the few zydeco artists who still sing and write some of their own material in Creole French.
The Blues Festival has also inspired the first annual Bikers & Blues Bike Show, downtown on May 25. The bikers in this case ride Harleys and the like, and they'll compete for prizes as well as dancing to DJ Curtis Pink and Brandon Perrault and Friends.
Over in Las Cruces, Memorial Day weekend means the Southern New Mexico Wine Festival, returning to the fairground May 26-28. You can sample wines from 17 different area wineries while listening to music by Cadillac Kings, Fire & Ice, Ryan Beaver, John Arthur Martinez, Kung Fu Treachery and Guitar Slim. Don't know your pinot noir from your pinot grigio? Wine University can get you up to speed, oenophile-wise.