Record crowds at Fired Up


October 2, 2019

Ron Warnick

A performer with the Odd Lab group does a routine with fire-tinged rings during a show Saturday night at the Fired Up festival in downtown Tucumcari.

The ninth annual Fired Up festival in downtown Tucumcari on Saturday drew a record crowd of 4,271, according to an official count kept by the organizer, Tucumcari MainStreet.

That number was 6% higher than last year's previous record of 4,024, though the 2018 total was incomplete because a volunteer lost one of the clicker counters, and it never was recovered.

Connie Loveland, who became executive director of Tucumcari MainStreet at midyear, said Monday she was confident the number was higher because volunteers didn't begin using the counters until after 1 p.m. Saturday, after crowds had started to gather.

"I'm sure it was quite a bit more than that," she said.

Loveland said she couldn't pinpoint one reason for the record throng, but she noted Fired Up gained more sponsors and one new entertainment attraction, the Clan Tynker Circus Group of Santa Fe. She said Tucumcari MainStreet also hiked its online marketing on Facebook and the Fast TV Network.

"We also marketed more with the Route 66 crowd," she said. "I talked to one couple from Ohio that were just traveling through on I-40 that had stopped here to eat and had decided to stay and come to the festival. I heard from several people who heard about it from several businesses on the (Route 66) Boulevard and decided to come down."

In addition to the circus, large crowds gathered around the Tucumcari Railroad Plaza to watch fire-themed shows by longtime Fired Up act Odd Lab, country-rock band Bakersfield Twang and a car-burning demonstration by the Tucumcari Fire Department. The festival ended with fireworks shortly after 9 p.m.

Loretta Muller, owner of the Loretta's Burrito Hut booth, said sales were "the best it's been" in her four or five years at the festival.

Loveland said New Mexico State Police's semi-truck simulator gained more visitors at Fired Up than during the recent New Mexico State Fair. State troopers pledged to bring back the simulator next year, she said.

Not everyone reported record business. Diane Becerra, owner of Diane's Flat Top Grill trailer, said: "We're still busy and business is good, but we were busier last year."

Robert Caldera, owner of the Mr. Corn stand, said long lines formed at his stand at 6 p.m. this year, compared to 4 p.m. the previous year. At 8 p.m., the line of customers wanting his corn on the cob was 35 feet long.

Loveland said the food vendors she talked to were pleased, especially with the new layout of the picnic tables where customers could dine.

"I did not hear any un-positive feedback," she said. "No complaints."

Paws and Claws Animal Rescue of Quay County set up its first-ever booth at the festival, offering a kissing booth of friendly canines of $1 per smooch. The nonprofit also sold cotton candy and popcorn.

Rhonda James, one of its board members, was helping take down the booth about 8 p.m. Paws and Claws had sold out its cotton candy and popcorn, and the kissing booth's tip jar was stuffed with dollar bills.

"And we gained two more volunteers," she said. "That's worth a lot more to us."

Most of the dozen competitors for the Prince Tocum and Prince Kari contest for small children were dressed in Native American regalia except one - Houston Train, 4, came in a Harry Potter costume.

Train's magic apparently didn't work on the judges. Jordan Garcia and Chloe Lucero were crowned Prince Tocum and Princess Kari, respectively.

A total of 13 entrants participated in the festival's annual car show. Tracy Johnson of Tucumcari won the Mayor's Choice Award from Ruth Ann Litchfield for his 1965 Ford Mustang.

People's Choice car-show winners:

• Classics: Patty Nunez's 1975 Chevrolet Silverado

• Custom: Connie Quintana's 1968 Chevrolet pickup

• Muscle car: Cory Sandoval's 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle

• Hot rod: Robert S. Solberg's 2004 Honda Aero

n Rat rod: Cameron Sandoval's 1934 Chevrolet pickup

n Motorcycle: Ryan Carl's 2012 Harley-Davidson Super Glide

n Best of show (tie): Carl's Harley-Davidson and Sandoval's Chevy pickup

Loveland estimated about 66 volunteers helped put on Fired Up, and she said the festival wouldn't have been as successful without them.


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