Saturday, June 17, 2017

Life in a Tourist Town



When I first moved back to New Mexico I lived in the small town of Questa. It was on a state highway from Taos to Colorado but if tourists stopped it was just for lunch at the Seville Restaurant or gas at one of three stations. It had no visible means of support beyond the Moly mine, some small town ranchers, and a barely under the radar drug trade.

When I had lived in New Mexico before it was mostly in Albuquerque which was on Route 66, which became interstate 40. It had two bases, a major federal laboratory, and the University of New Mexico. And sure, some tourists. But they were under the radar like Questa's drug trade.

In short I was totally unprepared for Angel Fire, New Mexico, especially since I had not moved to that town but a small rural backwater five miles south. I was looking to hide out in Black Lake. Silly girl. Income depended to some degree on Angel Fire. I taught skiing there. In Black Lake I made Mardi Gras masks which I shipped around the country at the Angel Fire Post Office. My social life was in Red River. It was where all my friends lived. Except for four or five ski instructors who moved to the area about the same time I did.

I suppose that was how I got involved in the tourist season thing. Angel Fire has no means of support beyond the resort and the tourist season. First it was just the one season - Winter. Then everyone was into building a tourist season beyond that. Skiers buy nothing beyond lift tickets. It is difficult to survive on just four months of fickle winter in a town where the skiers even bring their food from home.

So every organization in Angel Fire started some event which was in July. The one art event I had participated in before moving to the east side of the mountain had been in September. And they moved that to July. And there was Wings over Angel Fire, golf tournaments every weekend, and theater, and opening events for Music from Angel Fire (which has since moved to August). All depended on volunteers. And given the small amount of full time residents the same volunteers for everything. Forget having a life. But I did. I did art shows outside the valley. First with masks and then paintings. I treasured my time away from a town built for 1400 making room for 10,000.

But I got guilted into volunteering for the planning and organization of the July events. And, of course, I had to be home for ArtsFest, and donate art for the chamber music festival. One day I realized I was no longer invisible so I agreed to serve on the board for the local arts organization. Which is where I remain today. But I don't like tourists any more today than I did when I moved here. Maybe less. They want everything but are not willing to pay for it.

They come to town and cell phone service tanks, the internet slows to a crawl, at least one or more power outages on the big weekends and everyone griping because we should serve them better. No way am I shopping at the local market which goes Texan with all its food choices, and I only eat at the restaurants during off seasons. Summer tourist season is longer than July now. But off seasons seem to get shorter. I am not all together sure there is a fall off season but I like the breed of tourists that shows up then. They are artists or appreciate the arts. They want to see the aspens and the ghost towns and take in a concert or two and do an art tour.

I can see myself hanging out with the fall tourists but I am usually so exhausted from the summer tourism I want to hide out in Black Lake. And my studio is on tours so it must be open.  

This weekend is the kick off of summer. I got a new art exhibit hung on Thursday and then slipped off to my studio in Black Lake. There was a Friday night concert in the park, today there are balloons and tamale contest. Tomorrow the first of the summer Arts and Farmers Markets. I may sneak in early for the market. I can get edibles without going to the local store or over the mountain to the next tourist town. I need to conserve energy because Wednesday begins the planning for July. And did I mention I am an introvert.

I sometimes dream of a little mining town off the beaten path which hopefully does not have toxic water.


2 comments:

  1. Some of that is all too familiar. I mainly enjoy the tourists, they bring life to the town. I love playing the knowledgeable local!

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    1. I went through a period when I did. But then I found more and more they wanted to complain. Like much of the US tourists have become mean spirited and they come from one state which feels the own us and we should thank them coming here. They could go to Vail but we and they know they cannot afford Vail time or money wise. So I do what I can to minimize exposure except for the fall.

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