Our Lady of Belen to celebrate annual fiestas

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For 219 years, the parishioners of Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church have held an annual feast day to remember their blessings and celebrate.

This year is no different, as the church invites the community to “Arriba Los Corazones” or “Lift Up Your Hearts” and join in the celebration this weekend.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Martin and Sandra Sisneros were selected as the parade marshals for Our Lady of Belen Fiestas. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18.

The celebration is welcomed and anticipated, but this year’s padrinos want to make sure the true reason for the fiestas is remembered as well.

“It’s a day to celebrate our blessings and give tribute to religious life,” said Roland K. Sanchez II.

He and his wife, Valerie, are one of two couples chosen for the honorary position. Delbert and Anna Sanchez were also chosen. Both couples were selected by last year’s padrinos.

They start months in advance, helping with the different committees, selling raffle tickets, and cleaning and decorating the church in preparation for Wednesday’s fiesta Mass and procession.

“It’s more than a big party,” Valerie said. “The fiestas bring back the tradition of the church.

Delbert Sanchez said it is a huge honor to be chosen as padrinos.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Our Lady of Belen Queen’s Court have been selected by a committed this year. Pictured from left, Samantha Benavidez and Monique Macias, were second and third runner-ups respectively; Tabitha Davis was chosen as this year’s Fiesta Queen, and Arielle Aragon was named first runner-up.

“We’ve been going since we were kids. To be part of it is a great honor,” he said. “To get to be involved with the church is a good thing. This gives us the opportunity to do that, and it feels good.

“Too often we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. This is a chance to step back and get something done for the community and church.”

Being chosen out of so many parishioners makes the job very special, Anna said.

“Being Catholic, it means a little bit more,” she said.

“This is about bringing people back to what is the base of the community, as Catholics,” Roland said.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: This year’s Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church’s padrinos are, from left, Ronald and Valerie Sanchez and Anna and Delbert Sanchez.

While the fiestas are steeped in the roots of faith, the padrinos also acknowledge the celebration is a time for the church and community to celebrate and bring together friends — old and new.

Bryan Mascarena, the entertainment coordinator for the fiesta, has been working hard to make this year’s fiestas a fun, family-friendly event.

Wednesday marks the fiesta Mass and procession and Friday’s fun begins at 6 p.m. with bingo in the parish hall. At that same time, the music gets underway with Los Amigos de Nuevo Mexico, followed by northern New Mexico’s premier dance group, Los Ninos de Santa Fe. The evening will close with Juntos Unidos.

The parade starts at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, beginning at the Belen Recreation Center and going north on Main Street, ending at the church. This year’s grand marshals are Martin and Sandra Sisneros.

“They’ve done a lot for the church,” Mascarena said.

“We chose the grand marshals as a committee,” he said. “We had other names submitted, but theirs kept popping up to the top.”

After the parade, everyone can rest up until the carnival opens at 4 p.m. and the music starts again with Donald Martinez y Nueva Vida, Chicano Groove and finally Bandelegre out of Pecos, N.M.

The line-up on Sunday is equally as impressive. Things kick off at 1 p.m. with a performance by Vanessa Aragon, followed by Belen’s own Kevin Chavez Band and Carlos Medina y Los Gallos.

The evening closes with one of the Southwest’s premier groups, Sorela and the Legendary Chimayo Boyzz, formerly known as Chile Line Express.

“This year, we have the best entertainment in New Mexico,” Mascarena said. “Sorela has never been in Valencia County — they are excited to be here and we are excited to have them. They are one of the top performing groups in the country. We try to bring in big names, but keep our local groups, too. I think we have a good mix.”

And as the music plays, the carnival will be in full swing. Mascarena said this year, the carnival is featuring a $20 red stamp night on Friday.

For 20 bucks, get your hand stamped and ride all night.

There will also be a wide variety of food for those who work up an appetite — from Navajo tacos to the much anticipated fiesta burgers, curly fries and a Coke.

With the exception of the food and carnival tickets, entry to the fiestas is completely free of charge, Mascarena said.

“And I want to thank Father Stephen Schultz. The committee, we work as a team — no one is in charge,” he said. “But without him, we wouldn’t be able make this as great as it is.”

Organizers decided to make the fiesta queen competition a little different this year.

Instead of the candidates doing fundraising activities, the committee asked registered parishioners to nominate a young lady they thought best represented the church.

Four candidates were nominated, and 14-year-old Tabitha Davis was crowned the 2012 Fiesta Queen Saturday evening at the Queen’s Ball. She is the daughter of Brian and Lori Davis, and after graduating high school at St. Pius, she plans on becoming a chemist.

Davis was nominated by Theresa Salazar, who wrote that Davis contributes in very important ways to the welfare of her family.

“Her mother, Lori, works during the day, so she depends on Tabitha to watch her younger brother and sister while she sleeps,” Salazar wrote. “She helped her mother care for her great grandfather during his illness with cancer and continues to tend to her great grandmother, who has Alzeheimer’s disease. Tabitha makes sure she eats and takes her medications.”

In her essay on why she was a good candidate for fiesta queen, Davis wrote that she tries to help out at her church by helping with catechism with the children’s classes, office work, maintenance and “whatever else.”

“I try to have a very close relationship with God and try to read the Bible as often as I can. Something that I feel is missing in most children my ages’ lives,” she said. “I am also ready, respectful and responsible towards others.

“Being fiesta queen can also help me to represent our church and our ideals to others, especially my peers.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.