Looking for Americana?
In September in Albuquerque, you’re in the right place.
From Sep. 10-26, Albuquerque’s Fairgrounds play host to the New Mexico State Fair. State Fairs are a fall tradition across the United States, and particularly in less cosmo – or metropolitan areas, they’re often a highpoint of cultural and social life.
New Mexico’s fair offers over two weeks of concerts, performances, livestock exhibits and corn dogs, and will probably be one of the weirder destinations of any trip through the Southwest. You can wander along streets lined with booths selling all kinds of food, from the abovementioned corn dogs to green chili cheeseburgers and beef jerky.
For fifty cents, you can see “The BIGGEST pig in the world!”, or the biggest steer – generally a large but listless animal that’s probably doped up to the eyeballs, and which is fascinating in the same way that a car accident is. Or you can wander through warehouses where all kinds of prize livestock are held in anticipation of being judged something like “best cow”, “prettiest rooster”, or “best-tempered llama”.
But there’s more to the state fair than animals and food. There are a variety of concerts – haven’t you always wanted to see Rick Springfield in concert? Remember, this is New Mexico; truly top-notch artists aren’t likely to show up at our state fair. But KC and the Sunshine Band, Deana Carter, Lee Ann Womack, and a host of others are nothing to sneeze at, either.
There’s a concert almost every night; for a complete schedule, see the Calendar of Events. And if country music just doesn’t do enough to satisfy your craving for Western culture, you can take in one of the rodeos that take place almost daily.
If you’re more interested in the traditional cultures of New Mexico, the State Fair also has something to offer. There are several stages on the Fairgrounds which offer a variety of performances throughout the day, including traditional dancing – ranging from Native American to Mexican and Aztec – and folk music. Arts and crafts, both from the Indian pueblos and the Hispanic tradition, are on display in an exhibit center, as well as being offered for sale at artisans’ booths in the Indian and Hispanic pavilion areas.
The State Fair is a fascinating piece of American tradition, and whether you’re going to enjoy yourself or because you have a more sociological interest in the goings-on, it’s well worth a visit. Most people there will be New Mexicans, not tourists, so if you want to mingle with locals, this is your opportunity. And if you’re traveling with children, it’s certainly child-friendly, with events and games geared especially toward younger visitors.
For other events in the Albuquerque area – such as Pueblo feast days, well worth a visit and the subject of an upcoming report – check out the Albuquerque Tourist Board’s September calendar of events.
Albuquerque, on the Rio Grande, is the largest city in New Mexico (pop. 600,000), and the most popular summertime activity is finding things to do in air conditioned spaces. Nonetheless, it’s still worth visiting (though if you have your choice, you might try for September or October instead, when the heat dies down a bit).
If you drive into Albuquerque â€“ Interstates 25 and 40 intersect here â€“ don’t be put off by the ugly parts of the city you’ll see. If you do plan to drive here, be aware that New Mexico has some of the worst drivers in the world: assume that the guy next to you has no clue what he’s doing, and drive defensively.
If you’re flying in, the Albuquerque International Airport is not far from town. It’s a 15-minute drive from the airport to Central Avenue (which offers some cheap motels â€“ my personal favorite is the funky decorated Aztec Motel, 3821 Central NE, $22/single â€“ and a youth hostel, at 1012 Central SW). Some buses service the airport.
Albuquerque’s public bus system isn’t totally hopeless, but forget going anywhere after dark (most buses run from 7 am to 7 pm).
Bus routes, schedules, fares.
Lots of general area info (events, maps, history etc) and many useful links.
The Alibi, a free weekly local paper with all the nightlife info you’ll need.