History of Durango Fiesta Days
From 1935 till the present, the annual event we all know as “Fiesta” has been an important element of Durango and the surrounding area. Originally known as the Spanish Trails Fiesta, many changes have occurred over the years, including the name. In 1966, it was renamed the Navajo Trail Fiesta and in the 80’s it became Durango Fiesta Days. Many of these changes came about as a result of changes within the organizing committee at the time. Early organization was a result of area merchants promoting tourism in the area. During the time of the Navajo Trail Fiesta, a local civic group handled the footwork. Today, the committee is made up of a variety of local residents who want to preserve the heritage and flavor of the area.
The annual parade has always been a showcase of local flavor and color. A variety of folks participate in the procession down Main Ave. This parade is as old as the rodeo, and we couldn’t imagine Fiesta without it.
The rodeo has always provided some of the best entertainment for participants and spectators alike. Once a rodeo of the Rodeo Cowboys Assn., it is now sanctioned by the Grand Canyon Pro Rodeo Assn., and co-sanctioned by the New Mexico Rodeo Assn. and the Armed Forces Rodeo Assn. Currently, the rodeo is the main tourist attraction of Fiesta and incorporates many novelty events and acts to spice thing up a bit.
Horse Racing was a crowd favorite from the early days until the 1980’s, when the old grandstands were deemed “unsafe” and political pressure was increasing to modify the Fairgrounds for purposes other than it’s intended use. The grandstands, stalls and shed row are gone, as is the track. The bugle used as the call to the post is long silent. Horse racing is still a part of Fiesta as match races are held on the Fourth of July weekend and are one of our satellite events. The loss of the grandstands and horse racing was a near fatal blow to Fiesta, but due to the never-give-up attitude of some local folks, Fiesta is alive and kicking today. Obstacles to overcome still challenge the organizing committee such as a changing social climate and a fraction of the facilities needed for such an event. However, Fiesta remains the Premier local summer celebration and presents a show that the public wants to see. It preserves our western heritage and gives the observer a glimpse of our local history as an agricultural community.
At 82 years old, Fiesta is a grand old lady. Celebrate our heritage with us as we ‘Look to the Past to See the Future’ in July. Let us all ‘Come Together – Again’ with ‘New Beginnings and New Partnerships’ for our constantly changing face.
Below is a 1950’s view of the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
The row of buildings across the middle of the photo to the left mark the area of the current Fairgrounds. The only area used for ag-related activities is the very right-hand end of this row.
Photos on this page are courtesy of the Animas Museum archives and The Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College. Please visit these sites during your Fiesta experience.