New venue for family friendly fun
Stepping into the Rio Grande Wagon House on a Saturday night takes you back to a time when a dance was a family affair.
Among the couples who have been waltzing through 40 or 50 years of married life are children just trying out their first tentative two-steps. Teenagers dance the polka with their grandparents, and everyone turns out for the Cotton-eyed Joe — which, if you’re not familiar with the dance, looks a little like people spiritedly crossing a cow pasture and backing up at intervals to shake something off their boots. (It is tremendous fun.)
The good spirits are entirely natural. This is the kind of alcohol- and tobacco-free place to take the entire family.
“We don’t allow alcohol,” said Louisa Lopez. “We have our grandkids here, so we wanted a place where everyone could come with their kids.”
Louisa and Richard Lopez, who met in high school and have been farming the valley for 38 years, have been wanting to get this started for quite awhile, but had to wait until Richard recovered from back surgery and injuries he sustained from getting bucked off a mule. They hope to supplement their income a little.
“Farming is so bad, right now,” Richard said. “It’s been terrible. The horse market is killing us.”
If they don’t make money at it, though, they don’t really mind.
“We’ve worked hard all our lives,” Louisa said. “We want to have fun now.”
The Lopezes plan to have a dance every other weekend, and hope to get local musicians interested in coming by for regular jam sessions. For now, they’re splitting the door ($7.50 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under) with the band. They also sell hamburgers, candy bars, chips and sodas. Dances start at 7:30 p.m., and go on into the small hours of the night.
“As long as people are dancing, the band keeps playing,” said Louisa. “The older people start leaving about 11:30 p.m., but sometimes the younger people will whoop it up until 1 in the morning or later.”
To help get the ball rolling, local country music band True Country has been playing the part of the house band, and providing good old-fashioned dance tunes, with Wes Burris on the fiddle. Any band that is interested is welcome to give the Wagon House a try, though.
“To play here, you’ve got to play stuff people can dance to. That’s what it’s all about” said Richard. “You have to please the people. Music and dancing is having fun and enjoying yourselves.”
Tonight (April 10), the music will be provided by Lino Baca and the Memory Makers, who play everything from rock and roll to western to Spanish music.
So, if you feel like taking a little drive out into the countryside, you might like to head out to Luis Lopez. The Rio Grande Wagon House isn’t hard to find — just follow the big signs on Highway 1 and Farm to Market Road, and don’t forget your dancing shoes.
Contact Suzanne Barteau