A Fiestas-fun weekend

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By David Giuliani

The theme of this year’s Fiestas de Las Vegas was “Our Traditions, Our Treasures.” One of the traditions is rain, and one of the treasures is the people’s will to come back when it clears up.

Or at least most of them.

Cipriano Aguilar, a Fiesta Council board member, said precipitation brought down attendance during this year’s 121st annual festivities over the weekend. One of the headliners, Darren Cordova, was canceled, much to the chagrin of some, especially those who came from out of state to see the northern New Mexico favorite, Aguilar said.

Gonzalo had to shave off 30 minutes of his nearly two-hour performance because of the rain, organizers said.

“We had to clean the dance stage, so no one would get hurt,” Aguilar said.

Fortunately for the Meadow City, Mother Nature didn’t rain on the annual Fiestas parade.

As usual, the parade on Saturday was chock full of Little League teams, fiesta royalty from other towns, local businesses. But this year saw a new feature — floats for winners of the recent Baby Miss and Mister Las Vegas Pageant, the first of its kind in memory. And there were many more people riding horses in the parade than usual.

For a non-election year, a surprising number of out-of-town elected officials showed up to greet local crowds in the parade — Secretary of State Mary Herrera, State Auditor Hector Balderas, Attorney General Gary King and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., whose campaign car was driven by his father, House Speaker Ben Lujan.

The attorney general entertained the public playing songs such as “Happy Days Are Here Again” on his soprano saxophone. And state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, promoted her campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010, likely stumping in the Meadow City because of its strong Democratic reputation.

Las Vegans of a conservative bent may have been unnerved by the first appearance of the New Mexico Rainbow Club float. Men and women danced atop a flatbed to the beat of hip-hop and pop music. One person held a sign that read, “Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.”

After the parade, Mayor Tony Marquez and City Manager Timothy Dodge welcomed the crowds in Plaza Park to the Fiestas. And then local veterans led a Fourth of July program to honor those who have served their country.

“A lot of veterans don’t want to be acknowledged. But we should give them our gratitude,” said Gary Ludi, who led the ceremony. “They defended our country.”

Vietnam veteran Victor Cordova urged everyone to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.

“It’s not about us; it’s about them,” he said.

When he called a moment of silence, Tom Martin of Albuquerque yelled out, “Pray for the unborn.”

A man nearby told him, “Remember the veterans — that’s why we’re here.”

Martin, wearing a shirt that read that 47 million unborn have been abortion victims, later told a reporter that he wanted to send out an anti-abortion message in Las Vegas because most people in town support the pro-choice Democratic party.

Later in the ceremony, veterans were asked to stand up on stage to be recognized — 64 did just that.

Franchesca Saiz reminded her 6-year-old daughter, Savannah Saiz, that her grandfather, Francisco Saiz, served in Vietnam.

“You have to respect them,” the mother said.

The girl raised up her mini-American flag. Then as the men descended the stairs, both Saizes thanked them for their service.