Fired Up festival sets record


October 10, 2018

Ron Warnick

A performer with Odd-Lab of El Paso shows off her fire-choreography skills.

TUCUMCARI — Despite incomplete data, the Fired Up festival Sept. 29 in downtown Tucumcari surpassed its goal of 4,000 people attending.

Tucumcari MainStreet Executive Director Gail Houser said the official total stood at a record 4,024 on Oct. 1, despite one volunteer's counter that went at least temporarily missing over the weekend. The organization stations volunteers with clicker counters at three entrance points and counts each person walking into the festival area.

The previous Fired Up attendance record was 3,374. That means this year's crowds exceeded the mark by at least 19 percent.

Houser attributed several factors to the record crowd. One was nearly ideal weather conditions. The high temperature was 84 degrees with sunny skies and moderate winds.

"It was about five degrees too warm. I'll have to have a chat with God about that," Houser joked.

Second, Houser said Tucumcari MainStreet's social-media campaign to spread the word about Fired Up to the Albuquerque and Amarillo markets apparently worked. He said he even encountered a couple from southern Colorado who attended the festival.

Cooper Glover, a volunteer in the Tucumcari MainStreet tent, said it was clear to him Fired Up attracted newcomers.

"We're seeing some new faces and new vendors, regardless of the numbers," he said.

Glover said he recalled a couple from Albuquerque inquiring where to buy postcards of Tucumcari.

"I thought it was pretty neat they wanted to take Tucumcari home with them," he said.

Finally, Houser said talk about Fired Up, which just finished its eighth year, is getting around in a good way.

"I think the fact we've been doing this for eight years, publications are starting to realize it's here to stay," he said.

"And word-of-mouth in the region has made a big difference, as well."

Packed into the area of Second and Main streets near the old railroad depot, Fired Up offered no lack of activities. It included music performances by the Tucumcari Elementary Nyoka Marimba Band, the Trio Jalisciense mariachi group of Albuquerque and the locally based country band Bakersfield Twang.

Fired Up also featured a car and motorcycle show, Prince Tocum and Princess Kari child pageants, an expanded children's play area, a Mesalands Community College aluminum pour, 4-H rocket making, piñata breakings and dozens of food, craft and informational booths.

By early evening, lines at the food stands grew to 10 people deep and longer. That included Mr. Corn from Portales, which offered seasoned corn on the cob.

Mr. Corn owner Robert Caldera said it was his sixth year at Fired Up, and sales were comparable to previous years.

"It's been pretty good so far," he said.

One of the booths was Imagination Library of Grant County, which is establishing an affiliate of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Quay County that soon will mail free books to children up to age 5.

Loren and Barbara Nelson, who run the Grant County organization, signed up 115 children at Fired Up. That's more than 20 percent of the children in that age range in Quay County.

"It was exciting to be able to be a part of that," Barbara Nelson said. "People came out of the woodwork to see us."

Quay County residents also can sign up their children at or at Tucumcari Public Library, Eastern Plains Early Head Start or at school libraries in Tucumcari, San Jon and Logan.

By nightfall, the perennially popular Odd-Lab, based in El Paso, had drawn hundreds of spectators for two sets of its fire-and-dance act on the steps of the old railroad depot.

The festival concluded with a 10-minute fireworks show.

Ira Lujan of Prairie Dog Glass in Santa Fe brought his glass-making studio to Fired Up for the first time.

"It's a lot of fun," he said of the festival. "I'd never been to Tucumcari except to drive through it to head back east. I love the atmosphere and the character of the town with its old buildings. It's pretty cool."


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