Aztec Founders Day celebration to be held

Mike Easterling

FARMINGTON — A local couple that has operated a fly fishing-related business on the San Juan River for nearly 60 years will be honored when Aztec celebrates its 34th annual Founders Day event this weekend.

The Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village will serve as the site for many of the activities related to the Founders Day celebration this weekend.

Abe and Patsy Chavez, proprietors of Abe’s Motel & Fly Shop, will be named Pioneers of the Year during a ceremony at the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village on Saturday, Sept. 17, said Jimmy Miller, president of the Aztec Museum Association.

“They came before the (Navajo) dam, although they knew it was coming,” Miller said, describing the couple’s foresight in opening their establishment on what would come to be regarded as one of the foremost trout streams in North America.

The reception honoring the Chavezes will take place at approximately 10:45 a.m. and will follow the Antique Truck Parade through downtown Aztec, which is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. At that same reception, Aztec High School graduates from the 1950s will be recognized in keeping with the theme of this year’s Founders Day, “Aztec Remembers the 1950s.”

Miller said event organizers were struggling to come up with a theme for this year’s event in June when one board member advised his counterparts to come up with something that local residents could relate to. They quickly settled on the idea of celebrating the 1950s, a decade that has had such a lasting influence on American pop culture.

That choice also takes the pressure off Founders Day organizers to pick themes for the next couple of years, Miller said. In 2017, the event will have a 1960s theme, and in 2018, it will have a 1970s theme, he said.

This year’s Founder’s Day events actually get underway on Thursday, Sept. 15 at Pioneer Village, 125 N. Main Ave., with a screening of the 1950s classic “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean and Natalie Wood. On Friday, Sept. 16, “Old Yeller” will be shown, and on Saturday, “Swiss Family Robinson” will be screened.

Norm Garrison prints a newspaper on the vintage printing press at the Aztec Museum. A special-edition paper spotlighting Aztec in the 1950s will be printed and distributed this weekend during Aztec's Founders Day celebration.

Admission to all three films is free, and gates will open at 7 each night with the film commencing at dark. Miller advised visitors to bring a blanket or folding chairs, and said concessions will be available.

A full day of activities is planned for Saturday at the museum and village. The museum will display exhibits, posters and artifacts from the 1950s, along with a video that shows what Aztec was like during that decade.

There also will be a car and tractor show that features 1950 vehicles. Miller said last week there was still plenty of room in the show for new entries, and anyone interested in displaying their vintage car or tractor should call the museum at 505-334-9829. People’s choice awards for the best car and tractor in the show will be presented at 3 p.m.

Several raffles and children’s games will be presented throughout the day on Saturday, and continuous 1950s music will be played. A newspaper spotlighting 1950s events and fads will roll off the museum’s historic press that day and presented to visitors for free.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.