Arts and crafts

A new Questa community tradition

Third annual Alumbra de Questa Christmas market is an effort to start anew

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Alberta Bouyer has been in New Mexico for more than a decade and worked for the Questa tourism department for a time. She grew up a half-hour north of Manhattan and moved to Questa after working in promotions and marketing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She said her background in this field is what she brought to the table when she moved here.

“Even though I worked for some large companies, I valued my time consulting with entrepreneurs; helping them develop their business plans and develop a message so they would stand out in their often crowded fields,” Bouyer says. “This is the work that I brought to the table when I created the Questa Visitor Center in 2013, and continued working with the Village of Questa to develop their tourism message.”

She, along with many volunteers, artists and small business owners are hosting the third-annual Christmas craft market called Alumbra de Questa. The fair takes place Saturday (Dec. 16), 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., in the town center at the intersection of State Roads 522 and 38 in the Village of Questa, 30 minutes north of Taos. The event will feature the artists and craftspeople of this lively New Mexican village and a smorgasbord of traditional cooking with posóle, empanaditas, tamales and more.

Bouyer said this is a special craft market. “Taos County does not need yet another craft market unless it is unique. We created this one in 2015 to offer something different, a pretty outdoor setting, and a focus on the Spanish frontier history of our village. This being brought to life, so to speak, in our food choices on site, a general history of isolated, rugged living and craft-making by necessity, etc. It’s a beautiful drive to get here from any direction, and with the lack of snow, folks may be looking to get out and enjoy a hike at Wild Rivers before or after enjoying lunch or dinner and some music and unique shopping at our Christmas Market. In addition to the wonderful items for sale at the Christmas market, the Questa public library is bringing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus to the event. They will be on hand for photo-ops in between reading holiday stories to the kids.”

This market started, Bouyer said “after new residents commented that we’d be a great little mountain village to host a Kris Kringle market. Of course, bratwurst, gluewein, liebkuchen, etc. would not quite fly in Questa, so we worked to develop a Northern New Mexico version of a European Christmas market – an outdoor setting, traditional foods and local crafts and art. The evening lights are what’s spectacular, and in a Taos context, evocative of what is so thrilling at the Lighting of Ledoux, or Christmas Eve at the Pueblo.”

There were lessons learned from the timing and weather of the first year’s event, Bouyer said. “We initially tried for later hours that first year to celebrate the illumination, but it gets cold for the vendors after dark here, so this year we shortened the day to end at 6 p.m. We’d also held a two-day event in the past, but the overnight security added to the cost, and to the time vendors had to spend breaking down and setting up. This year we are focusing on a lot of advance publicity to get all our guests up here on one day only.”

The attendance in the first year was a few hundred, mostly locals, “We didn’t know what to expect, but our vendors, many up from Taos, were all pleasantly surprised at their great sales figures,” says Bouyer. Last year, there were also challenges because of a water shortage, “Our village was in the middle of a water crisis, plus our tourism department had been shut down, and my co-director, Dina Coleman, had to run the event by herself. Many potential market-goers were preoccupied just trying to cook and clean for the holidays.”

This year, the event will be better than ever, Bouyer said. Some of northern Taos County’s favorite artists have come together in recent months to create the new Questa Creative Council, a nonprofit organization to promote the arts in the area and host to the Questa Studio Tour and the Wild Rivers Paint-Out events. The QCC will have a booth at the Christmas market, selling affordable prints and ornaments. Some works of art have been donated and will be raffled off.

Claire Coté, recognized as a Taos County Unsung Hero, is attending and conducting oral history recordings in a casual mini living room-type setting. Coté plans to start the conversations and encourages families to participate. According to Bouyer, this is something Coté has “looked forward to for years.” This newly-created archive will be part of the History Trail’s overall project. “What better ice-breaker than asking folks to recall their Christmas memories?”

“We are extra determined to start anew and build on the success of our inaugural year,” Bouyer said. “ We want to build a recurring event that our village children will long remember, and our out-of-town guests will want to make part of their holiday traditions.”

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