Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Hillary Dutcher of Visit Las Cruces. A graduate of NMSU with a Master’s degree in Anthropology, Hillary is currently the Venue Manager at the Rio Grande Theatre. We met at the Rio Grande in a sparsely furnished office space. It is only recently that Visit Las Cruces has taken the reigns of the Theatre; however, I can say after our discussion I am excited for the future of the Rio Grande.
Rio Grande Theatre Then
This year The Rio Grande Theatre is 91 years old. I love the fact that a building which began with silent films nearly a hundred years ago still operates today. Though it has not always been easy. The theatre survived an earthquake in the early 1930’s as well as a fire in 1933, and continued to operate until 1997. Luckly, many saw the Rio Grande for what it was, and could continue to be.
Up until 1997 the Theatre was owned by the descendants of the original builders and owners of the Rio Grande, C. T. Seale and B. G. Dyne,. The next year, the Dona Ana Arts Council became the owners of the Rio Grande Theatre. With an eye on bringing the theatre to its former glory, the council began extensive renovations.
In 2005 the Rio Grande opened its doors once again. Through the efforts of the Dona Ana Arts Council, since reopening the Rio Grande has been a vibrant and active attraction in Downtown Las Cruces, and is even considered a historical landmark by the National Register of Historic Places.
Visit Las Cruces
Currently the Dona Ana Arts Council no longer manages the Rio Grande. Instead, this responsibility has fallen to an organization by the name of Visit Las Cruces.
So what is Visit Las Cruces? The official name of Visit Las Cruces is the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau or CVB. The organization is aptly named as, in a nutshell, the mission of the CVB is to get people to “Visit Las Cruces”. The organization works in numerous ways to achieve this goal. Visit Las Cruces promotes activities like hiking, public parks to visit, or events like the Downtown Farmer’s Market, and basically anything else one can think of seeing or doing in our great city. They have had a hand in organizing events as well, such as the annual Country Music Festival.
The mission of Visit Las Cruces serves to both build and bolster our local economy and communities by bringing in money from outside the city. It seems not only does Visit Las Cruces have a great mission, but are also a tight-knit team. When asked about the various positions within the organization Hillary said, “We’re a really good team I think. I don’t want to get cheesy about it, but we really know how to pull together”.
The Rio Grande Theatre Now
Visit Las Cruces has big plans for the Rio Grande. With both weekly events, and special performances the Rio Grande is in great hands.
What strikes me the most about the Rio Grande, is the variety of attractions. Every month the Rio Grande showcases a classic film as a part of their film series. With films like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (a personal favorite of mine), “Gone with the Wind”, or “A Christmas Story”. If you have young ones and are looking for something to do Downtown, the Rio Grande also has a Children’s Matinee Series! Beyond these two film series, the Rio Grande also has its Thursday Night Jams. Every Thursday the Rio Grande features live music from local artists. As well as these great live shows, the theatre now sells various refreshments,and even beer from great local brewery’s like High Desert Brewery CO.
The variety of attractions at the Rio Grande is also made evident in their Special Performances. For example, on the night of August 26th a Selena tribute performance will be held. Two nights later the Theatre will feature Marthe Cohn; a holocaust survivor, and co-author of the book “Behind Enemy Lines: the True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany”. With a wide range of events and performances in the works, the Rio Grande seems to have something for everyone.
While talking with Hillary last week I asked what the ideal future for the Rio Grande would be. To this she responded,”The Rio Grande should be self-sustaining and making enough money that we can bring in great events that will be good both to bring people in from out of town, and give them something to do; but also be something great for our community to experience that they wouldn’t have been able to before.”
I believe Hillary’s sentiments are not only attainable, but that the Rio Grande is well on its way towards this goal. With the great people of Visit Las Cruces at the helm, the range of events being held, and the rich history and beauty of the theatre; the Rio Grande’s place as a cornerstone of Downtown Las Cruces is assured in the coming years.