Socorro celebrates Independence Day

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At New Mexico Tech the annual Fourth of July celebration takes place on the grassy grounds of the campus north of Macey Center where events — and parking — are free.

Submitted photo: Community members gather in the area near the Macey Center enjoying a previous July 4 celebration presented by New Mexico Tech.

“This is our 21st year coordinating the Fourth of July celebration, and we’ve learned a lot over the years,” said Ronna Kalish, event organizer.

Kalish said food, beverage and other vendors moved several seasons ago to a larger area that can accommodate a bigger tent and more booths. Kalish and company have a lot of family options planned for the day, such as the return of Clan Tynker with their magic show and juggling acts; water slides and balloon jump; traditional barbecue; and a lineup of first-rate entertainment, all back by popular demand.

“A Fourth of July in Socorro wouldn’t be complete without a Hurricane or two,” Kalish said. “The Performing Arts Series and cosponsor, the city of Socorro, are pleased to announce the return of the always entertaining Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr.”

The Socorro Community Band led by Eileen Comstock and martial arts demonstrations by the affable Bokay Maiga and his young students have opened the celebration at 11 a.m. almost since its inception.

Comstock leads her band through traditional Independence Day tunes, among them “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Laced throughout the band’s performance are John Philip Sousa (1954-1932) marches, a genre in every good band director’s repertoire.

For his part, Maiga has operated his own studio and taught community college classes at New Mexico Tech focusing on both martial arts and self-protection. He enjoys a reputation as a popular instructor who performs alongside his charges.

Starting at noon, members of Clan Tynker will perform an hourlong stage show of magic, juggling, stunts, music and comedy. They then circulate through the crowd throughout the afternoon on stilts and high-rise tricycles, performing magic and even a few old-time Vaudeville routines.

Et Alia, a belly dance troupe, will perform in late afternoon.

First in the event’s music lineup at 1 p.m. is Doug Figgs and the Cowboy Way. The lanky singer-guitarist Figgs will be joined on stage by fellow musicians lead guitar player and vocalist Mariam Funke and bass player and vocalist Jim Ruff.

“Doug Figgs has attracted quite a following in the Socorro area,” Kalish said. “His fans are very loyal, and follow him to wherever he is appearing in town.”

“For the Fourth, we will be performing western, country and country/rock classics along with a fair amount of our own material,” Figgs said.

Spanish and rock band Suavecito, led by Anthony Lukesh, takes over at 2:15 p.m. Other band members are Lorenzo “Porky” Valenzuela on vocals, Tony Telles on bass, Anthony’s dad Carl Lukesh on lead guitar and David Luna on sax.

“The majority of what we play is New Mexico Spanish music,” Lukesh said. “But we’re versatile — we’ll play whatever the occasion calls for.”

Returning for his second year in row is El Gringo, otherwise known as Shawn Kiehne, a Los Lunas-based musician who sings Spanish, country and rock. Kiehne, who learned to speak Spanish from working with the vaqueros on his family’s El Paso ranch, will take over from Suavecito at 3:30 p.m.

Back by popular demand are the ranking father and son showmen of New Mexico, Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr. The Hurricanes, who are among the best-known New Mexico entertainers, are event headliners with a performance scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Remedy, led by rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Carlos Chavez, is back this year to close out the show. Other members of The Remedy are George Murillo, keyboards, trumpet and bass guitar; Richard Murillo, bass guitar, trumpet and backup vocals; Ronnie Silva, lead guitar, bass guitar and some backup vocals; and Jon Licha, drums and backup vocals.

At dusk, around 9:30 p.m., the pyrotechnical experts at New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center will put on their own aerial show.

“EMRTC’s reputation is based on explosives research, so when it comes to the handling and detonation of pyrotechnic devices, they’re the best,” Kalish said.

People are not allowed to bring their own fireworks to campus.

“Bring your lawn chairs from home, your coolers, grills, sun shades and plenty of sunscreen, but leave your fireworks at home,” Kalish said.