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Fiesta Days returns, largely focused on rodeo events at La Plata County Fairgrounds

Region’s longest-running event will celebrate 88 years – sans parade
Christen Martinez competes in the barrel racing competition during the 2021 Fiesta Days at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The 88th annual Fiesta Days will honor Durango’s rich tapestry of heritage with a queen coronation and thrilling rodeo events through the weekend.

After losing momentum in the wake of the pandemic, the historic Main Avenue parade will not be apart of this year’s Fiesta Days celebration.

“It was difficult to plan the parade during the pandemic because we couldn’t meet,” said Cindi Brevik, president of the Fiesta Days committee. “And then we lost a lot of committee members and we couldn’t put it together.”

The spirit of the celebration remains alive, however, and will kick off at 4 p.m. Wednesday with a barrel racing competition at the La Plata Country Fairgrounds. A team roping slack event will occur at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The iconic Fiesta Days rodeo will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday and include both bareback bronc and saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, mutton busting, bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping and breakaway roping.

“This is the largest rodeo in the Four Corners area,” Brevik said. “We have over 800 individual contestants during the whole weekend.”

There are plenty of opportunities to watch as the rodeo will continue at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. This year’s Fiesta Days rodeo queen will be crowned at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.

Durango’s Fiesta Days, formally known as Spanish Trails Fiesta, dates back to 1935. It was initially a three-week celebration of Durango’s tri-ethnic heritage.

“People celebrated the unique aspects of Native American culture, Spanish culture and Anglo culture,” Brevik said.

In a display of unity and diversity, people from all backgrounds would camp along the Animas River, where the present day Durango High School stands, and showcase their cultures through special traditions, cuisine and dancing.

Brevik referred to the old Fiesta Days as a “combination of cultures.” Unlike the 1935 Fiesta Days, she said today people tend to celebrate their individual histories separately rather than coming together.

“There are now 10 million things to do in Durango in the summer, and we’re just another activity that goes,” she said. “A lot of times the history is completely overlooked because people are just so busy and don't pay mind.”

Many Fiesta Days events have died over the years, including the Animas River rubber ducky race, music performances, horse racing, cooking festivities, and more recently the parade on Main Avenue.

As for the future of Durango’s Fiesta Days, Brevik said she will continue to preserve local roots but fears the event might lack planning and collaboration efforts from the community.