Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


BB King in Placitas

BB King Concert at SunFarm (in Placitas)  November 8, 1970.

Placitas History Project

—Bob Gajkowski

Placitas Woodstock

In August 1969 on a farm in upstate New York, 500,000 exuberant, free-spirited young men and women gathered to hear the musical prophets of their generation. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Airplane, and many others were there.

Its promoters initially conceived it as a moneymaking venture, but, because of the unexpected thousands who arrived at the site in ever-increasing numbers over a three-day period, the festival was soon a free admission event. If you had purchased an admission ticket, you were in; if you had no ticket, you just jumped the downed fence and crossed the open meadow to stake out your patch of dirt and grass… you too, were in! This was Woodstock! The crowds and the resulting air of “come… enjoy… do what you want,” combined with unexpected rains and mud, poor sanitary conditions, inadequate health and food services, all added to the mystique of which is now part of the Woodstock legacy.

This was the Woodstock that has become a symbol of rebellious youth, a drug-crazed decade or two of antiwar demonstrations and civil disobedience. Its influence spread across the country… around the world. Even today, ramifications of those three days are present in the cultural mores, the speech, the language, the way of thinking about and dealing with each other and the world at large.

But there was a “Woodstock” closer to home… right here in Placitas. Several people interviewed by the history project remember the “Placitas Woodstock.” It was called “The Medicine Ball Caravan.”

The Medicine Ball Caravan was formed shortly after New York State’s Woodstock Festival. Hollywood‘s Warner Brothers Records saw an opportunity to cash in on the success of Woodstock. With a long list of musical talents already under contract to the record company, the artists would appear at venues across the country. Tom Donahue, an underground DJ from San Francisco radio station KSAN, would be the front man as the caravan of four silver buses, brightly colored trucks, and other vehicles headed east from San Francisco. The 150-plus musicians, sound technicians, their families, and hangers-on drove across Arizona and arrived in New Mexico. At each new venue, a headline act would be ferried in to perform. Alice Cooper, the band Ten Years After, Doug Kershaw, and others performed as the caravan moved east across the country, stopping wherever a large crowd could be gathered.

On Friday, May 8, 1970, the lines of vehicles moving east in both lanes along NM Highway 44 (today’s Highway 165) caught the attention of many Placitans. Along the full length of Camino de las Huertas, up to its intersection with Las Huertas Creek and beyond,  large numbers of young men and women—dressed for the mild weather in jeans, shorts, colorful shirts, and tops—moved in and out among the stalled cars caught in the miles-long backup which had spilled over from Highway 44 as far back as the Placitas Heights subdivision. Traffic westbound on the highway came to a standstill. Cars and other vehicles filled every empty parking space along the shoulders of the highway.

At the site along Las Huertas Creek, a traveling music festival had, over the preceding couple of days, erected a large outdoor stage. Facing west with Cabezon in the distance, the stage played host to several musical groups and popular singers of the day. The entertainers would perform for their audience throughout the day and into the night. The crowd was excited, generally orderly, and having a great time. Music from the stage combined with clapping, singing, and dancing from the audience to rebound through the valley. A helicopter, part of a motion picture crew documenting the caravan’s travels and performances as it moved from venue to venue, ferried performers to and from the stage area. The headliner—blues singer B. B. King—arrived in the early evening and engaged the crowd with his “How Blue Can You Get” and “Just a Little Love.” (Check out King’s performance on Google: B.B. King in Placitas.) Placitas received top billing in the trailer for the 1971 The Medicine Ball Caravan, the motion picture filmed as the troupe performed at its many stops. After Placitas, it was on to southern Colorado for performances at several communes there.

The Placitas History Project would like to hear from anyone who was at the “Placitas Woodstock.” Any photos or other documentation (ticket stub?) and especially personal recollections of this event (who, in addition to B.B. King, performed?; was there newspaper/radio coverage?; how were tickets sold and then collected at the gate?… or was there even a gate?) will be added to the project’s archive, to be established at the Placitas library.

Contact Bob Gajkowski at (505) 771-0253 or through the library’s e-mail (

CodeRED Emergency Notification System

Sandoval County has instituted the CodeRED Emergency Notification System—an ultra high-speed, telephone communication service for emergency notifications.

This system can telephone all or targeted areas of the county in case of an emergency situation that requires immediate action (such as a natural gas outage, missing child, or evacuation notices). The system is capable of dialing 50,000 phone numbers per hour. It then delivers a recorded message to a live person or an answering machine, making three attempts to connect to any number.

If you did not receive CodeRED calls on your landline during the natural gas outage, it is especially important for you to register for this service. To register your phone number with this system, go to On the sign-up page, you will have to enter your name, address (must be one in Sandoval County), and telephone contact information. There is also a place for e-mail and text messages. Businesses should use the business tab on the CodeRED site to ensure that their notifications are properly identified.

The information you enter will go straight to the CodeRED computer and not to any other group, including Sandoval County or the Town of Bernalillo.   

The information will only be used for the emergency notifications.

Plant/Book/Bake Sale April 9 at the Placitas library

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, the Placitas Community Library (PCL) will host its annual Plant/Book/Bake Sale from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. There will be loads of interesting books to peruse and lots of yummy homemade baked goods. Through the generosity of High Country Gardens, Osuna Nursery, Alameda Greenhouse, Plants of the Southwest, and others, we are also able to offer a selection of beautiful native, xeric, and vegetable plants for your gardens.

As a special treat this year, well-known naturalist and PCL board member Bill Dunmire will give a talk on native plants and a tour of our native and xeric gardens at 1 p.m. Bill is the author of Gardens of New Spain: How Mediterranean Plants and Foods Changed America (2004) and coauthor, with Gail Tierney, of Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province: Exploring Ancient and Enduring Uses (1995) and Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners (1997). Most recently, he has coauthored Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies (UNM Press, 2007) with Carolyn Dodson.

April 9 will also be a community day at the library. There will be pet adoptions from Placitas Animal Rescue (just in time to take that puppy for a walk on our beautiful trails) and information on Casa Rosa, Pathways, Whoa, Yoga Crossroads, and assorted other local organizations. [If you would like to have a table, please call Anne at (505) 867-5340.]

Beginning Sunday, April 3, the Placitas Community Library will be open on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. This is in response to requests from YOU, so please stop by for a visit.

Upcoming Adult Programs

  • April 2: Essentials of Health with Dr. Mary Lou Skelton, 11:30 a.m.
  • April 3, 10, 17, 24, and 28: Script Frenzy, 1 p.m.
  • April 4: PCL Book Group 1, 4 p.m.
  • April 7: Master Gardening, 6 p.m.
  • April 8: Artist Reception with Wayne Mikosz and Riha Rothberg, 5-8 p.m.
  • April 9: Plant/Book/Bake Sale, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Bill Dunmire Native Gardens Talk and Garden Tour, 1 p.m.
  • April 14: Master Gardening, 6 p.m.
  • April 16: Square Foot Gardening with Resilient Placitas, 1 p.m.
  • April 21: Master Gardening, 6 p.m.
  • April 28: Martin Heinrich office hours (an aide will be on hand for discussion), 1-3 p.m.; Placitas History Project, 6:30 p.m.

Mary Hofmann

Mary Hofmann with pottery at the 1997 holiday sale. Photo by Dana Patterson Roth

Bunny Bowen

Bunny Bowen with her batik scarves and pictures (1998). Photo by Dana Patterson Roth

Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale celebrates 30 years of bringing art to Placitas

—The Placitas Holiday Sale Committee

Since 1981, the Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale has grown from about a dozen local artists that displayed their artwork in a newly built spec home to over 80 artists that come from many communities of New Mexico, including Placitas, Bernalillo, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, the surrounding Native American pueblos, Colorado, and beyond. Artists from New Mexico have been coming to Placitas for 30 years with their own special artwork to sell to the public. They have been so well received by our community that they continue to want to be in the show.

The Placitas holiday sale dug its roots deep into the rich, cultural soil of Placitas, with its Spanish folk art heritage and the artistic legacy of the nearby pueblos. It laid a foundation for other art events in Placitas, created a reputation among artists for high quality arts and crafts in Placitas, and provided beautiful works of art that decorate the homes of Placitas, Bernalillo, neighboring communities, and even across the country.

Times in Placitas have changed in 30 years. When the Placitas holiday sale began in 1981, there were few homes below the S-curves, and most of the population was centered near the Village and outlying areas. It was a tight community that got together often to have fun. The original idea of starting the Placitas holiday sale came from Peaches Malmaud, who at that time did ceramic art. Peaches now sells shirts with fish and plant imprints, and she is also one of the founders of the well known Valley Garlic Oil.

“Peaches came around and talked with various artists to see if there was interest, and sure enough there was,” said Nancy Couch, the show’s current coordinator. “She mostly organized everything herself, but got others to help her like us, Mary Hofmann, Susan Junge, and others. Trades were common to cover booth fees. We were in charge of making the signs and putting them up.”

“It became a community effort, with neighborhood kids being hired to direct the parking, and local women acted as hostesses at each location, making sure everything ran smoothly,” said Dana Roth. “I was in charge of the publicity photography, and my husband, John, ran electricity to the tent.”

In the beginning, the show was held each year at a new location. Peaches knew different builders in the area and negotiated with them to allow the artists to display their artwork in their newly built homes.

“The homes were perfect, with large solar windows that really made the artwork look good,” said Nancy Couch. “I clearly remember the first show—we were in the greenhouse and had about eight different styles of water prisms.

They made these incredible rainbows that went into the living room and danced across the other artwork. It was a magical moment, and we sold out.” 

“Peaches used every available space in the early houses to place artists, even the bathroom (it wasn’t hooked up yet),” said Mary Hofmann, a 30-year veteran of the show and one of its current directors. “The closets, all rooms, the garage, and more were filled with artwork. Different dates were tried in November and December, and then we stayed with the weekend before Thanksgiving.”

The favorable response from people to the first show was encouraging to the artists, and the people were happy to purchase beautiful handmade items for their own homes. That was the beginning, and each year after, there was a different location for the show. This worked out great for seven years until one of the homes was sold right before the holiday sale was to begin. The new owners reluctantly agreed to let the show go on, but this was a wake-up call to move the location to something more permanent.

In 1989, the Placitas holiday sale moved to the Village, displaying art at Clear Light Gallery and setting up the first Big Tent in the parking lot. For a while, the community center and the Hacienda de Placitas B&B were used as additional venues, and in 1995, Placitas Elementary School was added. The Anasazi Fields Winery became a site in 1997 before the wooden pavilion was built, but it only accommodated about five or six shivering artists out of the forty plus total. The winery was expanded a few years later when Jim Fish and his partners built a large, heated wooden pavilion with a kiva fireplace and magnificent views of their vineyards and orchards.

In 2001, the holiday sale changed again, and the Big Tent was put up next to the beautiful Café de las Placitas building, which was also used to show some of the 70 artists. The following year, the tent found its seasonal home next to the Casa Rosa at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. In 2007, the elementary school was renovated, and the following year, the show expanded into the halls, allowing the number of artists exhibiting to reach its current size of about 80.

Presently, the show is produced by local artists Nancy Couch, Jon Couch, Mary Hofmann, Bunny Bowen, and Dana Roth. The Placitas holiday sale is making special plans for this year’s event, which will be the 30th anniversary of the show. Jon Couch said, “This is a milestone, since it’s the longest running art show in Placitas.”

Today, Placitas is a culturally rich community that has spread out in all directions. It has become known for its beautiful, spacious views of the mountains and has through the years attracted many artists who work and find inspiration in this peaceful setting. It comes as no surprise that Placitas has become a growing community of artists and that the greater community loves and supports them.

This is the first in a series of articles about the Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale in commemoration of the show’s 30th year, which will be celebrated November 19-20, 2011. Future articles will spotlight founding artists, early locations, the show’s history, and the people who produce it.

Experienced mudder working on Old Church wall

It takes a village

—Margaret M. Nava

When the first Catholic church in Corrales was swept away by floodwaters in the late 1860s, the tenacious residents did not give up hope—they pulled together and built a new church, this time on higher ground. Built in the shape of a cross and named after San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, the new church was constructed with three-foot-thick adobe masonry walls, hand-hewn corbels, a viga ceiling, hand-adzed lintels above the doors and windows, a flat earthen roof, packed dirt floor, and a belfry over the main entrance. 

For 60 years, the church served its small flock well. Sunday services were performed on a monthly basis by a priest who traveled to Corrales on horseback, newlywed couples posed arm-in-arm on the wooden steps leading up to the east entrance, young parents brought infants to be baptized in view of the village’s patron, and penitents kneeling on woven mats prayed for forgiveness. When an elderly member of the community died, the sacristan rang the bell slowly—a faster pealing bell meant a child had died. Families were buried together in the churchyard or nearby campo santo. The church was the heart of the faithful and the nucleus of life in the village.

As time moved on, many changes were made to the building. A pitched tin roof was put in place, the earthen floor was covered with wooden planks, electric lighting and gas heat were added, concrete skirting was poured at the base of the building to protect it from erosion, and twin bell towers were erected to support the weakening facade. Even so, by the late 1950s, the congregation had grown so large that a new church was needed and subsequently built a short distance away on Corrales Road.

In 1963, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe desanctified the old church and allowed residents to renovate and use it as a community theater they called the Adobe Theater. Then in 1974, the building was sold to the Corrales Historical Society (CHS), who, in 1976, deeded ownership to the Village of Corrales with the agreement that preservation and use of the building would remain with the CHS. In 1979, the Old San Ysidro Church was placed on the State Register of Cultural Properties, and in 1980, it received the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After the Adobe Theater moved to its new location in 1987, extensive remodeling began. Seats, risers, and stage structures once used by the theater group were removed, modernized entrances were replaced with historic doors, vigas, lintels, and corbels were repaired, interior walls were mud plastered, and landscaping was donated and planted by residents and community organizations. Today, retaining much of its original character, the Old San Ysidro Church is preserved and managed by volunteers of the Corrales Historical Society, using monies earned from membership dues, donations, and leasing income.

As part of the preservation efforts, the CHS sponsors an annual “Mud Day,” during which neighbors and friends come together to mix and apply adobe mud to the walls of the Old Church and to attend to any other maintenance jobs that need doing. Skip Erickson, CHS preservation and maintenance committee chairman, says the medium they use is a mixture of native clay, sand, water, and straw. “Everyone is invited to come out and work—there’s plenty of work for everyone. We normally get about 35-40 people, and they all seem to love playing in the mud, especially the kids. The kids and people without any mudding experience are usually put to work on the front wall, while the church itself is kind of reserved for the more experienced. About four or five years ago, we had a professional mudding crew come in, and they did the whole outside. It held up really well, so right now, we’re just doing patching, like the cracks along the foundation and under the windows where the water drips—whatever needs to be done.”

Corrales Historical Society President Alice Glover added, “In addition to the mudding, there’s a lot of yard work. Last year, we did some painting, landscaping, cleaning, weeding, and tree trimming. It’s almost like a spring housecleaning project. And the docents serve sandwiches, green chile stew, desserts, drinks for lunch. A lot of people come for the morning and then go home after lunch.”

There are currently 551 volunteers and 62 docents in the Corrales Historical Society, but more are always welcome. Glover said, “We have a strong group of volunteers, and we continue to maintain the Old Church property, record oral and photographic histories of Corrales, archive the history of the community, and educate the public about Corrales and our place in New Mexico history. It’s a lot of work, but none of it gets done by itself. We wouldn’t be here without the help of our devoted volunteers and docents.”

In her poem, “Life Goes on in the Village,” long-time CHS volunteer Evelyn Losack wrote:

Life in the Village is fiesta,

Life in the Village is amore.

Life goes on in the Village,

Life goes on like a song.

This year, the annual “mudding” takes place on Saturday, April 30 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Other upcoming events include the Speaker Series  (“Winemaking in New Mexico”) at 7 p.m. on April 7, Music in Corrales (Cascada de Flores Latin trio) at 7:30 p.m. on April 16, the Speaker Series (“The Witches of Abiquiu”) at 7 p.m. on May 12, Heritage Day from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on May 14, and the Old Church Art Fest from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on June 4-5. All public activities are free and take place at the Old San Ysidro Church across from Casa San Ysidro, located on Old Church Road. For more details, call (505) 897-1513 (a recorded message), or log on to For membership and docent information, call Jan Protz at (505) 890-5953, and for special event and wedding scheduling, contact Dee Turner at (505) 263-0666.

Get more from your garden this year

Resilient Placitas (RP) and the Placitas Community Library invite you to our preplanting season Square Foot Gardening Workshop. Come on over to the library on Saturday, April 16, 2011, from 2-5 p.m. This oasis of learning is located at 453 NM 165, which is approximately four miles east of I-25, two miles east of The Merc, and just west of our Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade. A donation of $5 is suggested to cover the cost of materials.

Jerry Peace and Bill Carr will team up to show and tell us greenthumbers how to get maximum yields in multiple harvests from gardens eight by eight feet and smaller. Albuquerquean Jer shared his grower’s know-how with us last year at RP’s small farm forum. Placitan Bill is known in our community for having remarkable harvests.

Square foot gardening can be a three-crop-a-year system by starting early in spring with plantings of cold-hardy veggies such as lettuce, spinach, peas. This remarkable success comes from growing in a ‘’soil” that is composed of equal volumes of compost, vermiculate, and peat moss.

We’ll also learn about soil amendments such as humate, azomite, hydrogen peroxide, Epsom salts, and manure tea.

Our presentations will start indoors and then move outdoors, so bring along a jacket just in case it is cool in the afternoon.

For more information, contact Cosmos at (505) 217-9384. RSVP at You can also sign up at the Placitas library by calling (505) 867-3355.




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