July 4 Extravaganza Returns!

SOCORRO, N.M. June 24, 2014 – Tired of the crowds, the search for parking, high concession prices? Wouldn’t you like to listen and dance to New Mexico’s favorite Hurricanes – for free?

Here’s a sizzling tip: Ditch the Big City for the small town of Socorro and enjoy Independence Day as it was meant to be celebrated – with music, entertainment, food, fun and fireworks in a friendly, community setting.

New Mexico Tech has just the ticket: a 22nd annual Fourth of July celebration on the grassy grounds of the campus north of Macey Center that’s free to all – and so is parking.

“Consider coming to Socorro for the Fourth, and leave the hassles of the city behind,” said Ronna Kalish, director of Tech’s Performing Arts Series (PAS) and event organizer. “This is our 22nd year coordinating the Fourth of July celebration, and we’ve learned a lot over the years.”

Indeed, food, beverage and other vendors moved several seasons ago to a larger area able to accommodate a bigger tent and more booths. Kalish and company also have tried to “give the fans what  they want,” and that means lots of family options, such as the return of Clan Tynker with their magic show and juggling acts; water slides and balloon jump for the kiddies; traditional barbecue; and a lineup of first-rate entertainment, all back by popular demand.

“A Fourth of July in Socorro wouldn’t be complete without a Hurricane’ or two,” Kalish said. “The Performing Arts Series and co-sponsor, the City of Socorro, are pleased to announce the return of the always entertaining Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr.,” she said.

“I’ve kept the same lineup because it’s such a great mix of local and New Mexico performers, that everyone loves,” continued Kalish. “The whole state can know that they can see Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane, Jr., and El Gringo, two great bands, and a great fireworks display, in a safe and family-friendly venue, all for free, plus all the other popular and talented Socorro bands.”

Successful events, like buildings, require strong foundations. In the case of this holiday event, the Socorro Community Band, led by Dr. Eileen Comstock, a musician and physician; and martial art demonstrations by the affable Bokay Maiga and his young students, have opened the celebration at 11 a.m. almost since its inception.

Comstock leads her band through traditional Independence Day tunes, among them “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Laced throughout the band’s performance are John Philip Sousa (1954-1932) marches, a genre in every good band director’s repertoire.

For his part, Maiga, who has operated his own studio and taught Community College classes at New Mexico Tech focusing on both martial arts and self-protection, is a popular instructor who performs alongside his charges.

Another bedrock performer is Et Alia, a belly dance troupe that will perform in late afternoon in fluid and colorful ensembles, heavily embellished as called for by tradition.

Starting at noon, members of Clan Tynker will perform a 1-hour stage show of magic, juggling, stunts, music and comedy followed by a stroll through the crowd, delighting both kids and adults throughout the afternoon on stilts, high-rise tricycles, magic and even a few old-time Vaudeville routines.

First in the event’s music lineup at 1 p.m. are Socorro favorites, Stasia Kerkmans on vocals and guitar, and Mariam Funke on lead guitar, performing classic country, folk and bluesy tunes.

“Stasia and Mariam have attracted quite a following in Socorro County, with their regular performances at the Bodega Burger Co., Sofia’s Kitchen and other venues,” said Kalish. “Their fans are quite loyal, and follow them wherever they’re playing.”

Spanish and rock band Suavecito, led by Anthony Lukesh, takes over at 2:15 p.m. Other band members are Lorenzo “Porky” Valenzuela on vocals, Anthony’s dad Carl Lukesh on lead guitar, and David Luna on sax.

Suavecito is the third iteration of two earlier bands led by the elder Lukesh – La Raza and Unida, dating back to 1981.

“The majority of what we play is New Mexico Spanish music,” said Anthony. “But we’re versatile – we’ll play whatever the occasion calls for.” Generally, that means a good selection of rancheras and cumbias, always crowd favorites.

Returning again this year is “El Gringo,” otherwise known as Shawn Kiehne, a Los Lunas-based musician who sings Spanish, country and rock. Kiehne, who learned to speak Spanish from working with the vaqueros on his family’s El Paso ranch, will take over from Suavecito at 3:30 p.m.

And, back by popular demand, are the ranking father and son showmen of New Mexico, none other than the iconic Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr., who need no introduction. The Hurricanes, who are among the best-known New Mexico entertainers, are event headliners with a performance scheduled for 6 p.m.

A dance band popular statewide and certainly one of Socorro’s all-time favorites, The Remedy, led by rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Carlo Chavez, is back this year to close out the show, starting around 6 p.m.

Other members of The Remedy are George Murillo, keyboards, trumpet and bass guitar; Richard Murillo, bass guitar, trumpet, and backup vocals; Ronnie Silva, lead guitar, bass guitar and some backup vocals; and Jon Licha, drums and backup vocals.

At dusk, around 9:30 or so, the pyrotechnical experts at New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC) will put on their own aerial show. “EMRTC’s reputation is based on explosives research, so when it comes to the handling and detonation of pyrotechnic devices, they’re the experts,” said Kalish.

“As always, we ask that people not bring their own fireworks to campus,” she continued. “Bring your lawn chairs from home, your coolers, grills, sun shades and plenty of sunscreen, but leave your fireworks at home.”

So make plans to make a day of it, stay the night at any one of the city’s fine lodging facilities, or enjoy a late-night meal at one of its 24-hour restaurants.

And don’t forget the lawn chairs and shade!

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech