Saturday, October 31, 2015

Zia Marching Band Fiesta in Albuquerque

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is your child's first day practicing a flute and 10 is attending a Drum Corps International band performance, the Zia Marching Band Fiesta state competition in Albuquerque was an 8. Well, this is the first event in which we haven't been unanimous in our rating value. If you are a band geek and did 4 years of marching band in high school like me, you'd probably rate it an 8. Otherwise, if you have never seen a band performance in your life, like Orrin, you may rate this event a 4.

This event is an event that I would return to year after year because if you miss a show, it is something you miss forever. You will never see it again. Out of all the marching band competitions in New Mexico, Zia is by far the best; it is the one that all the bands work for the hardest and it is the most anticipated of them all. The variety of shows that perform is astonishing. Really, the only downside to Zia is the cost of admission.

Our Story of the Performance

One of the things were most excited to view in this performance was my little sister performing. This is her senior year and her first year she was in marching band. She is a very talented piano player, so they put her on the electronic keyboard in her school's marching band. Non-marchable instruments like a piano are usually placed at the front of the field and together they constitute the section called "the pit." It is most fun when the pit players rock out and bob their heads up and down to the music. This night was the only chance we would get all season to see her perform, so we were so excited that she absolutely rocked it!! Here she is in all her glory!

Now you may be wondering how an electric piano is a part of a marching band. Well, marching bands have changed with the times. The first marching bands were the instruments that marched with soldiers to battle. This eventually evolved to bands playing and marching in parades. Now marching band is a class taught at many high schools. The bands march on a football field and based on the position of individual people on the field, geometric shapes are created. These shapes change and evolve throughout the 10-15 minute performance. For a while, bands focused on traditional style of marching. But in the past few decades, bands have little by little been introducing unique elements into the shows. Many times this involves special props which help the audience better be able to relate to the chosen theme of the dance for the day. Sometimes this involves new age instruments like electric pianos, electric guitars, and sometimes even elements like a grand piano (one band brought one to Zia this year!). Some people embrace these newer elements as they can make the show more exciting. However, some disagree with their use as it can potentially distract from the band. This push-and-pull of old vs. new is one of the main themes of the 2002 movie Drumline.

The themes this year at Zia were fascinating and so different from one another! Some of the themes that the bands took on this year included:


Some sort of mural theme

Climbing Mt. Everest

Little Red Riding Hood

Arabian Nights


Piano Man

Tales of Horror

Route 66

Now, not being the least bit biased, I would have to say the best part of the marching band--the part that makes the show-- is the colorguard!!! Here is an extra showcase of this key section:

Cost to Attend:
For finals only or prelims only: $11 per adult, $6 per student (but it doesn't count if you are a college student, unfortunately... only highs school and below)
For Finals and Prelims: $16 for adults and $9 for students
Total Cost for the two of us: $22

As a final picture, here was an epic moment in the Arabian Nights show when a colorguard princess slit the throat of the drum major!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pumpkin' Chuckin' in Estancia

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is being tied on a railroad with a train coming directly at you and 10 is a massage, the annual Pumpin' Chuckin' Contest in Estancia is a 5.
This is such a unique event to go to. Let's be honest... who wouldn't like to be a part of building a trebuchet or slingshot or catapult or air cannon to launch a pumpkin across a field?! How cool is that?!! This is inherently a cool event. The entire town of Estancia must come out to this event in addition to cool people like us from cities like Albuquerque. It is definitely an event that we will brag about having attended for the rest of our lives, but one time may be enough for us..

A Bit About The Event:

One of the coolest facts that we learned from the day is that Estancia (which is about a 54 mile drive from Albuquerque) is the Punpkin' (no I didn't miss spell pumpkin) Chuckin' Capitol of New Mexico. This year was the 20th year of this annual event in the Land of Enchantment.

As the sign demonstrates, the day begins with a parade at 10:30. Other events of the day include the crowning of the Pumpkinfest Prince and Princess, a pumpkin pie eating contest, vendors, and raffle prizes. Pumkin launchees seek to break records and those that accomplish this feat may have a chance to compete in the World Championship Pumpkin Chuckin Contest in Delaware in November. The current world record for the furthest pumpkin launched out of an air cannon according to is 4,694.68 feet! With a mile being 5,280 feet, that launch was almost 89% of a mile! That is impressive to say the least!

The Estancia competition is put on by the Estancia Rotary Club. The main goal of the contest is to earn money for scholarships for those who graduate from Estancia. In 2014, five scholarships of $1000 were able to be given to graduating seniors. The following quote is according to
 "The Rotary Club uses the money made at the festival for a variety of causes. Some money goes to scholarships for seniors graduating from Estancia High School. Money raised from the festival also goes to children participating in Girls/Boys State, Camp RYLA, a youth leadership camp, school supplies for needy children, and toys for children at Christmas."
 Our Day Pumpkin' Chuckin':

We arrived at the event during the middle of the pumkin' chuckin' portion of the day. We parked and walked in. The entrance ticket became a raffle ticket. At one point we heard a raffle going off. The first place prize was a homemade quilt. My favorite detail was that both the 2nd and the 5th place prizes were a mixed bail of hay! I could just imagine winning one of those and bringing it back with me in the back of the car.

As we walked into the field, there were vendors all along either side. They form a pathway leading to the area of the launching. One of the tents that we stopped by was the Toss-No-Mas tent for keeping New Mexico Clean and Beautiful. After we signed pledges on their ipads, we got free prizes. Orrin picked out a backpack and I got a windshield shade for my car! Good thing, too... I've been needing one of those!!

Continuing on, we finally got to see the pumpkins being launched. We learned that it is called "pumpkin pie" when a pumpkin explodes in the air. A pumpkin pie doesn't count for anything. It only counts when the pumpkin reaches the ground. That first point is what is measured. Trucks and golf carts race out to measure the distance from start. Before the pumpkins launch, some of the machines will honk a huge horn. However, that was only about 2 out of the dozen or so trucks. For this reason, it took probably 50 attempts for Orrin to get some good photos of the launching. Our best results are here:

If you want to know the best part of the whole trip, it was the Chuck Wagon Soda station. There were 6 magnificently delicious soda options. You can buy a decorated tin cup and a soda for $7 or stainless steel for $10, both cups being 36 fl oz with all refills being $3 more. Our first tin cupful was of the Sarsparilla variety and our second was Birch, with Grandpa buying black cherry soda in a stainless steel cup. I can't begin to describe how delicious this soda was. It is soda you may be lucky enough to have once in a lifetime. Here is the cute cup we got out of it:

Here are A Few Ideas we have that could have made this event so much better:

  • Getting a better speaker system. We were a mere 4 bleechers from the speaker and we couldn't hear anything but mumbling. If there were a few more speakers spread out around the field, it would have made it so much more easy to figure out when the launches were going to take off. 
  • Announce better and more consistantly when the launches were going to happen. As it was, it was always a surprise when a launch was to take off. If you don't watch right when it took off, you didn't see the pumpkin at all because it shot out so fast and landed so far away, that it was basically invisible the whole time. 
  • Have more variety in the booths.
  • Maybe have shaded bleacher areas (or have brought an umbrella myself). I was worried I was going to get sunburnt while trying to watch the pumpkins being launched.
Total Cost:
Entrance: $5 each
Soda: $10 total for us
Total: $20 for the both of us

Let us know in the comments below what kind of a stand you would love to run in an event like Pumpkin Chuckin!

Madrid on the Turquoise Trail

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is having no internet for the rest of your life and 10 is being at a free buffet of your favorite foods, Madrid, NM ranks a 7.

This town is an adorable gem! I don't know how I lived almost my entire life in Albuquerque and never knew about this cute artistic town. It is a mere 45 mile drive from Albuquerque. The tourist part of the town is an easy stroll of less than one mile from one end to the other on the main street. Each of the buildings on the street, most of which are antique houses, have been converted to a shop of some kind-- a diner, a sculpture yard, a jeweler, et cetera. This is a town we may not return to annually, but we absolutely will come back many times in our lives.

First things first... How to Pronounce Madrid:

Those of us who speak Spanish or are fluent in the languages of world history or geography may know very well that Madrid is the capital of Spain. That famous 450+ year old city correctly maintains the proper Spanish pronunciation of Muh-drid. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, and after much attempted argument to the contrary, I finally came to the truth that New Mexico Madridians pronounce the name of their town MAD-rid. I know, it makes no sense, but alas it is the human named truth.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, let us move onto A Little Bit of History:

Clear back in the 17th century, Madrid was a lead miner's town. Coal mining began in 1835 and a special green form of turquoise called Cerrillos Turquoise was also mined nearby. This model miner's town closed in the 1950s and became essentially a ghost town. In the 1970s, hippies and artists began moving into town looking for real estate in the mountains. Since that time, Madrid has continued in this pattern of awesome artistry. If you possess even the slightest percentage of hippy in your DNA, your day there will be filled with so much to see and do that you may find yourself there five hours later still not wanting to leave.

Onto Our Story of the Day:

We arrived to town around noon. We began our journey in Madrid by stopping by a few shops. During this time, we asked for a recommendation for lunch and we went on to try it out. The name of this diner was Mama Lisa's Cafe. If you come from a decently large city like us, this cafe may be unlike any place you've ever dined before. We are accustomed to restaurants where everything on the menu is available at any point in the day. You come in anytime, take one of the plenitude of tables available, and have paintings on the wall to look at as you wait for your food to be delivered. If this is also the "norm" for your experience in diners, Mama Lisa's Cafe may surprise you.

We came in toward the end of the lunch rush. The menu was posted on a whiteboard at the door, so you had to select your meal before sitting. We found the last table available and we seated ourselves. The waitress/hostess/cashier/busgirl came out to greet us. She took our order and we observed the surroundings as we waited for our food to be delivered. My favorite piece was a woven wood moose hanging on the wall. It was fun to people watch while looking out the front window toward the main street. Our meal was served on a giant plate. Orrin got a brisket sandwich and I got a green chile chicken enchilada meal. The photo below was after he put everything green onto my plate.

Our food was delicious, but then the most interesting part of the dining experience began. As we ate, we eavesdropped on the surrounding tables, which were very nearby. We discovered that grandma, our tablemate, had ordered the last available bowl of tortilla soup. Soon after, we learned that the house was out of all the pies listed on the menu. Little by little, we became aware of more and more items which had run out for the day. The most devastating was that the of their 3 unique flavors of ice cream listed (of which, we were very excited to try blueberry lavender) only a chile flavored one was left. We were not so keen on trying that one, so we all shared a piece of chile chocolate cake with grandpa. I just have to take a moment to rant about how even growing up in New Mexico where I add green chile to almost every plate, I personally do not believe chile should be mixed with sweets. There is just something so wrong about that. Okay, the rant is done. We paid our check and headed onto some more stores.

What immediately struck me was how the shop owners conducted themselves. In the city, when a salesman talks to you, you feel like it is because they are under some sort of obligation. Most people you would see running the stores were well into their retirement. Some would tell stories of how their grandparents used to make certain styles of jewelry and some of their molds are still used for the silverwork in bracelets. They would tell stories about how they aren't in the shop for the money in the least bit. One man told us that he lives on a lot not too far away with about 50 acres of land. He only runs the shop because if he didn't see people occasionally, he or his dog would go crazy. What you will find inside many of the stores are all sorts of jewelry and Native American style pottery and trinkets. I guess that turquoise is found in veins of rocks like the one below.

One unique stop is called Maggie's Diner. As the sign right outside clearly states, "This is NOT a diner. It is a store." In fact, the building was also originally built to be a set for the 2007 comedic movie Wild Hogs, featuring Tim Allen and John Travolta. It has since been turned into a shop jam packed with souvenirs: t-shirts, bandanas, mugs, and sarcastic posters. 

Here are a few other fun trinkets we found at Madrid.

Rock-shaped soap 

Miniature Missions of NM

Random statues all over town

Air compressor wind chimes 

Crows that fill their beaks with water then release it out

A train!

Shop full of nothing but cute, funny sheep

We have saved the best for last just for you. If nothing else, the shop we are about to mention is reason enough to take a trip to Madrid. The name of this spectacular stop is Shugarman's Little Chocolate Shop. This is a man who owned an award winning restaurant for 20 years. He retired and started playing with chocolate. This led to his starting up his own shop. He gets the best ingredients from around the world. He will ask you if you prefer white, dark, or milk chocolate and then proceed to let you sample various chocolates until you pick the perfect few you'd love to purchase. He mixes various things like lemons, cherries, super foods, coconut, mango, and many more options into his chocolate. The options will be different every time you come in. We had extra time to sample...the store had seen no customers all day long and then shortly after we came in, about 8 other people entered. The chocolate was some of the highest quality we've ever had. It is worth every dime you pay for it!

Total Cost:
Mama Lisa's Diner: $10-12 per meal plus more if you get a dessert
Shugarman's Chcocolate: $13 (what we spent on it) $9.40 per 1/4 pound
Ice Cream at Jezebel Studio and Gallery: $3 each
Plus whatever souvenirs you purchase
Our total cost: ~$41

The next town south of Madrid has a ruin or two that you can view as you drive past it on the Turquoise Trail. Here is a photo:

Comment below about what kind of shop you wish you could see in Madrid! Or what your favorite shop was!