San Jon greets visitors at temporary center

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

The employees of the Glenrio New Mexico Visitors Center are getting adjusted to their temporary location.

For three weeks now, the temporary center has been located next to the San Jon City Hall and offers all of the services that the old center at the state line offered. The state is building a new $7.4 million center at Glenrio and until it is completed later this year, the welcome center is operating out of Village of San Jon.

“The facilities here are more than adequate for the services we offer,” said Alice Arguelo, a tourist counselor.

Edith Buerger, who was visiting the center on Thursday, said, “We are traveling from Ohio to see our son in Albuquerque. We flew in last time. But, now, that we are driving ,we want to see all that we can while in New Mexico.”

There are maps, guides, a media center, Internet access and the staff is always ready to help with questions and tourism suggestions.

With the new location, however, there’s been a drop in visitors.

“We used to have 1,500 visitors a day and now it’s about 100 visitors a day,” said Kathi Sherwood, tourist counselor.

“There is a sign on I-40 that told me the visitor center had moved,” said Paul Katz, from Panhandle, Texas. “I am traveling to Albuquerque and Santa Fe and appreciate the information available at this center.”

“The visitors have been finding us with the signs that have been put up along the interstate by the New Mexico Department of Transportation,” said Arguelo.
“The people coming to the center are interested in New Mexico and spend their money here in the state and that also helps San Jon with business.”

Arguelo and Sherwood are two of the four-person team from the state’s Department of Tourism workers who staff the center. The center is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Their job is to welcome visitors and promote New Mexico. “New Mexico is an easy state to promote. There are a lot of cool things to do and see here,” said Arguelo.
Visitors have a keen interest in Route 66 and often want to learn how to travel the route, she said.

Of course, often the first question is “Where’s the bathroom,” followed by questions about what time zone they are in and the number of miles it is from the center to certain cities in New Mexico, said Arguelo.

“We always try to suggest things that are an easy stop off of I-40, like the two museums in Tucumcari, the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa” she said.

The Mesalands Community College’s Dinosaur Museum gained attention and visitors from a bronze dinosaur bone that was on exhibit at the Glenrio center, said Craig Currell, director of the museum.

It has been removed from the Glenrio while construction is under way. It is to be installed at the temporary center and to return to Glenrio when it reopens, said Arguelo.

Since several of the workers live in San Jon or the area, their commute to work is now much shorter. But, “We are so pleased about the new center. It’s going to be great. We’re looking forward to it,” said Arguelo.

The staff said that the residents of San Jon don’t seem to mind the addition of the center into their town.

“We have a lot of curious visitors from the town who come in to look around,” Arguelo said. “The senior citizens donated an Easter centerpiece for our table. We encourage local residents to come in.”