Book sale, art show and Halloween party added to list of cancelled events

Festivities hampered by prohibition on large gatherings

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Sharon Blue Eyes, the technical services director at the Farmington Public Library, sorts items included in the annual book sale at the library in this 2017 file photo. This year's sale has been called off.
  • Farmington Public Library director Karen McPheeters hopes her institution can hold its annual book sale at a later date.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of many of San Juan County's more popular annual events.
  • Farmington Chamber of Commerce officials hope to stage a modified version of their Chile in October contest.

FARMINGTON — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to maintain a hold on San Juan County, the number of popular public events that have had to be cancelled or postponed continues to rise.

Over the summer, the pandemic led to the cancellation of such iconic local events as Riverfest, the San Juan County Fair and the Connie Mack World Series. With fall approaching and no end to the spread of the virus in sight, other significant events are falling by the wayside.

Local officials already had announced the cancellation of the annual Totah Festival & Indian Market, which was planned for Labor Day weekend, as well as the annual Dining with the Dead fundraiser at Greenlawn Cemetery in September.

Now, the annual used book sale presented by the Farmington Public Library Foundation, the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park's annual "Gateway to Imagination" art exhibition and the downtown Halloween celebration Boo-Palooza have been added to the list.

Library director Karen McPheeters said the library foundation had no choice but to call off this year's book sale in light of the public health orders issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to help prevent the spread of the virus. The event typically features tens of thousands of books and draws thousands of shoppers to the library's Multipurpose Room over the course of several days.

McPheeters is hopeful that conditions will allow the foundation to hold the sale, or perhaps two smaller ones, at some point in the spring or perhaps even late this fall. The money raised from the event goes to support the library's annual summer reading program.

The library is operating under reduced hours, as it is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday while being closed on Friday and Sunday. McPheeters said her facility is not offering any live programming during the pandemic, but it is experimenting with staging some of those events online, including its storytelling sessions and some performances.

Book lovers who are used to building up their personal collection at the Farmington Public Library's annual used book sale will have to find another source, as this year's event will not take place.

"It's very difficult for an organization that has prided itself on its programming and getting people to come in the building, but now everything we're doing is the opposite," McPheeters said of the library's approach to maintaining social distancing standards. "It's so weird."

McPheeters said the library has experienced a substantial decrease in its usual number of visitors since it reopened on June 8 after a shutdown of nearly two months. She believes many of the library's patrons still are taking a cautious approach to getting out.

"They'll come back, but our usage is very low," she said.

McPheeters said she is concentrating her efforts on positioning the library to grow if conditions turn around and maintain its position if they don't. She hopes the library will be able to resume some of its traditional services this fall and go back to longer operating hours.

But she noted that depends on what direction the pandemic takes.

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"We've had a lot of compliments on how well we have handled it," she said, describing the feedback the library has gotten from its users. "I think we're doing the best we can for our patrons."

McPheeters finds validation in that positive feedback.

"That gives me confidence we're moving in the right direction," she said.

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The Farmington Museum's "Gateway to Imagination" show had been scheduled to open in late September and run for two and a half months. The juried exhibition features the work of artists from all over the country who compete for thousands of dollars in cash prizes, and serves as the museum's largest annual art show.

Boo-Palooza takes place on Main Street in downtown Farmington every Halloween and attracts thousands of costumed children and their parents. It features trick-or-treating, costume contests, games, dancing and a live DJ.

Jamie Church, president and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce.

Still, not every event that traditionally takes place in the fall in the Farmington area has been called off. Jamie Church, president and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, said supporters of her organization's popular Chile in October in Berg Park are meeting this week to consider ideas for keeping that event afloat this year.

The annual event held along the banks of the Animas River features chile and posole cook-offs, as well as a salsa contest, live music and a beer garden.

Church said the chamber is considering doing a modified version of the event this year. Instead of an in-person event at Berg Park, the event could unfold over multiple days, with people buying a passport that would allow them to sample contest entries at several local restaurants. They would then vote for their favorites, and prizes would be awarded to the winners.

But the logistics and scheduling still need to be worked out, she said.

"We're trying not to cancel events, we're trying to modify them," Church said, explaining that the chamber is exploring virtual alternatives for its speed networking and professional women's events later this year, as well.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.