Socorro musicians and volunteers packed the Socorro City Council meeting Monday night to show their support for the annual SocorroFest.
SocorroFest is a long-running community event that showcases local musicians and features out-of-state headliners. The annual festival also features family activities and vendors. The event is usually held in the fall at the historic Socorro Plaza.
The event was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, and no plans were made to hold it in 2021. Councilor Deborah Dean said that with the pandemic continuing and a brand-new city tourism director, organizers thought they’d just wait until next year.
At a city council meeting several weeks ago, Mayor Ravi Bhasker suggested the city should no longer sponsor the event at all, noting that he believes it does not draw in many out of town visitors. The city typically provides funding for the event, it is usually held on city property and city staff typically assist with set up and clean up, said Dean, who has been involved in organizing the event in past years.
New Mexico Tech and Frank Etscorn have also sponsored the headlining musicians, said NM Tech Performing Arts Director Ronna Kalish during Monday’s council meeting.
In a Facebook post on Oct. 30, Dean mentioned the mayor’s comments and asked what people thought. In a comment on that post, Bhasker called the event a “budget buster” and “elitist.”
The next day, Dean posted again encouraging people who support SocorroFest to come to Monday’s city council meeting. There were no action items related to SocorroFest on the agenda. Enough supporters showed up to the meeting to fill the room, with a few left listening in the hall.
During public comment, attendees advocated for supporting SocorroFest because it brings attention to the historic plaza and is an opportunity for the local community to gather.
“My wife and I moved here because for two years in a row we came to SocorroFest. We saw a wonderful community, not only of music, but arts and multicultural gathering,” local musician David Chavez told the council.
“Socorro would be foolish to turn down such an opportunity, as they have the last few years, to gather the community musicians together and have a lovely celebration where everybody gets together and enjoys the community spirit,” said Val Thomas, a local musician who works at New Mexico Tech.
“I know of three families and one individual who have moved to Socorro largely because of our music community here,” said local musician Jim Ruff.
Members of the public suggested the city make the festival more economically feasible by getting corporate sponsorships or potentially charging some kind of admission fee.
“I’m from budget and process. You guys are from passion and talent, I understand that and I’m so glad that we’ve got the turnout. I think I’m receptive, Councilor Dean is, and I think the councilors are too” said Bhasker. “But I’ve got to have a process because there are lots of groups that want something done and we’ve got to have a process to budget that money.”
Bhasker suggested a group get together to put together a proposal for the event.