Families brought coolers, grills and tents to the grassy areas east of the parking lot at Macey Center on Monday, while hundreds of others brought blankets and portable chairs to stake out a claim on the shaded turf.
The New Mexico Tech community was well represented among the 4th of July revelers, with both undergraduate and graduate students, members of student clubs, faculty, staff and even the President of the Institute himself, Dr. Daniel H. López, and local attorney and Board of Regents member Jerry Armijo and his wife, Lillian.
The 19th annual 4th of July celebration, now packed up in bunting for next year, was deemed a success.
“We had a large and enthusiastic crowd; the bands were great, people keep coming and going all day long,” said Ronna Kalish, Director of the New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series, and event coordinator.
“The fireworks were exceptional, maybe the best I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Kudos to Kelly McLain and her crew for a fantastic show.”
Each musical group brought its own signature sound – “It was all different, with something to please everyone,” Kalish said.
Vicky Gonzales reprised her role as emcee for the event, while Macey Center’s Vaux Hall provided technical support.
Campus Police were a visible presence throughout the event, and served double duty guiding traffic through packed parking lots, and ensuring that no one brought illegal fireworks onto campus.
“We had a lot of student clubs who volunteered,” Kalish continued. Among them were the Graduate Student Association (GSA), the Soccer Club, the Golf Club, the Martial Arts Club that performed for several hours, and [Keegan Li1] members of the Rugby Club.
Gavin Torres, a New Mexico Tech alumnus who plays drums for Tori Murillo and the Murillo Brothers band, made his 4th of July debut on Monday as the newest member of the popular local band.
“Lots of students ate at Chartwells on the meal plan – they had a great setup,” said Kalish. The GSA volunteers were busy for hours selling and collecting tickets for a barbecue buffet prepared by Chartwells that featured grilled burgers, brats and sauerkraut, chicken, beans, potato salad, fruit cups, cookies, brownies, and canned sodas.
The weather was hot, but not stifling, and people dressed accordingly. Children in swimsuits beat the heat at any one of the inflated water slides, and most spectators wore shorts and t-shirts, a few decked out in red-white-and-blue attire.
Men stood watch over flaming grills as passers-by soaked up the savory scents of smoked meats and grilled vegetables.
As per tradition, the Socorro Community Band led by Eileen Comstock opened the festivities, followed by several hours of martial arts demonstrations.
Young couples strolled the grounds, hand in hand or arms entwined, while children played their childhood games and occasionally joined in the dancing. The later it got, the more the children ran about; perhaps fueled in part by the sugar sweets for sale and the lollipops handed out by Tobias Rene, event headliner.
There was even dancing in the streets – make that the parking lot southwest of Macey Center, where a canvas tent made for a makeshift bandstand.
It should come as no surprise that the older generation of dancers outnumbered their younger counterparts; and that, of this group, women dancing with each other was pretty much the norm.
It seemed that the cumbias and waltzes brought out the dancers, while the audience sang along with the classics, from country/western to oldies but goodies.
The pyrotechnics show that closed out the evening was, indeed, spectacular. “We want to thank everyone who supported the event, from our financial sponsors to our volunteers, to all the people in the campus and Socorro communities who came out for the festivities,” Kalish said.
“You’re the ones who made it happen!”