Events are back up and running again at the Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex after a little longer than a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first events hosted at the complex after the shutdown were the New Mexico Tech graduation in May and the Fourth of July Celebration.
Mike Alderete, Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex Facilities Director, said it was great having people enjoying being at the complex again.
“Just the smiles and the expressions on people’s faces — that says a ton. With those same smiles as they arrive, when they leave it’s pretty rewarding,” he said.
Alderete said the past year and a half was very lonely and quiet except for the few guests he would see walking the 5K course or around the soccer fields.
Once Alderete got the “go-ahead” to start booking events, he started reaching out to the producers he has worked with in the past.
“They love the work I do so it was really easy to draw them back in,” he said.
He has secured multiple barrel races along with the Pro Rodeo and the World Series Team Roping Championship. Both of those events are three days long.
The Great New Mexico Chile Taste-Off will also take place at the complex on Sept. 18.
“I’m trying to get this area to have that state fair atmosphere feel to it so we are really pushing to get that done,” Alderete said.
He is hoping that the Fourth of July Celebration next year will be even bigger as Alderete said there were not as many people as he expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Alderete, it wasn’t a complete challenge securing barrel races and rodeos because he has contacts with many producers in the industry.
“They love our arena and they love the work that I do to the arena ground,” Alderete said. “If they didn’t have that trust in me, they would probably be looking for someone else.”
One challenge Alderete came across when booking events was the impact of COVID-19 on those who participate in rodeo events.
He said cowboys and cowgirls had to sell some of their horses due to not having any work, how expensive feed is and the lack of water in the Rio Grande which leads to not having water to grow feed for the animals.
Rodeo participants come from all over New Mexico along with multiple states, which brings in money for the City of Socorro and Socorro County.
“I love our community and I want our community to thrive,” Alderete said. “I am trying to generate these productions up here to happen because not only will they spend money here at the facility, but most importantly, they spend money in our community where there is fuel or food in the grocery store or our restaurants. That is my goal is to keep our community functioning. It’s all about the community.”
During the hiatus, Alderete spent the majority of his time keeping up with the maintenance of the 5K course, the rodeo arena and the soccer fields.
For the rodeo grounds, Alderete said he did a lot of general maintenance and conditioning, which includes irrigation and fertilization.
He said there is a technical science to keeping the rodeo grounds up to par.
For the conditioning, Alderete said he has to pay attention to the weather, humidity, how the tractor is pulling, the direction the tractor driver is ripping and more.
“It’s not just about getting the top pretty, to look pretty. I wish it was that easy, but it’s not,” Alderete said.
He said maintenance gets away from him, it’s very hard to get the rodeo ground back to where it needs to be.
For him, the most important part about keeping up with the rodeo grounds is making sure it is safe for the riders.
“The arena ground is important for our rodeo goer’s because if you hurt any equine, you hurt the rider at the same time,” he said. “If you start hurting them, they won’t come back. They are my bread and butter and I need to keep them happy and the ground safe so they can leave the same way they arrived — safe.”
Alderete put rocks on the 5K course — orange if the runner starts on the north end and yellow if the runner starts on the southeast end — so the runner knows how long they have gone and how far they have left to go.
During monsoon season, the 5K course is harder to maintain because the arroyo crossing washes out so Alderete hauls in dirt and uses a backhoe to level the ground and keep it safe for the runners.
For the soccer field, Alderete said there is a lot of work that goes into keeping the field safe for its users. Alderete has to fertilize and mow the field, fix and repair irrigation, make sure the water valves work and aerate.
Part of his job is keeping people off the fields during rain or lightning storms to ensure that they don’t injure themself.
During the school year, the Socorro Consolidated School District uses the 5K course and the soccer fields for their cross country and soccer teams, respectively.
“They are very happy with it out there,” Alderete said.