From Jemez Thunder, December 01, 1997
The Jemez Thunder put out a special supplement in August 1995 in recognition of the All American City Award to Jemez Springs.
by Kathleen Wiegner, transcribed from Jemez Thunder, July 1, 1995
On June 24, tiny Jemez Springs shared the stage of the Stouffer Hotel’s Grand Ballroom in Cleveland with nine other cities from across the United States. The occasion was the awarding of the National Civic League’s All-American City Awards, which recognize grassroots activism and collaborative problem-solving by public, private and nonprofit sectors.
To the applause of the more than 1,200 delegates from 30 finalist communities, the Jemez Springs delegation – Mayor David Sanchez, Courtney Lewis, Barbi Flora-Baker and Kathleen Wiegner – received the framed certificate which will be formally presented to the village on July 4th.
Other cities receiving an award were Mobile, AL, Lindsay, CA, Monrovia, CA, Ocala-Marion County, FL, Lafayette, IN, Greater Louisville, KY, Lumberton, NC, Akron, OH, and Edinburg, TX.
From the beginning, Jemez Springs was a sentimental favorite. The fact that a village of only 456 people had made it to Cleveland in the same company as Greater Louisville (with nearly one million in population) or San Jose, gave Jemez Springs the classic role of the underdog. Sometimes, this caused problems. On the official T-shirt which named the 30 nominated cities, the village was listed as “Jamaz Springs.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer got the spelling right, but missed a word, referring to the village as “Jemez, NM.”
Other cities brought more people and made more elaborate presentations before the 12 judges who made the final decisions: Edinburg brought a 12-piece mariachi band; Lumberton entertained the crowd with rock and roll band comprised of six policeman and a fireman; Ocala showed up with an American Eagle from the petting zoo which proceeded to nip its handler on the cheek during Ocala’s presentation to the judges. Greater Buffalo put together an elaborate video. Many delegates sported custom T-shirts and buttons touting their towns. Lafayette’s delegates were decked out in railmen’s striped overall and caps with buttons that flashed just like a crossing sign.
The Jemez Springs delegates, whose trip was financed totally through donations, put their emphasis on the story they told the judges during the 20 minutes they had to give their presentation and answer questions. The only visuals were color slides of the Jemez take by local photographer Frank Sarnol.
The presentation, which was held on Friday afternoon, started with Mayor Sanchez outlining the problems Jemez Springs, a once-quiet village, has faced recently because of growth in population and in tourism, particularly with the creation of the Jemez National Recreation Area.
Jemez Thunder Editor Kathleen Wiegner talked about how the village, facing bankruptcy, instituted a range of cost-control measures, while relying heavily on volunteer, self-help and intergovernmental load-sharing strategies. As Jemez Springs’ Volunteer of the Year, Barbi Flora-Baker told the judges about all of the village’s volunteer groups and how they served without pay in an effort to keep the village running. Finally Jemez High School graduate Courtney Lewis outlined the village’s efforts to protect its small-town ambience through the adoption of an up-to-date zoning.
The Mayor concluded the presentation by pointing out that the problems Jemez Springs faced were not unique. With more unfunded mandates, more responsibility has been placed on communities to support themselves. Nor are all of the village’s problems solved. But, he concluded, Jemez Springs has come a very long way in a very short time.
Following the presentation, the Jemez Springs delegates switched into casual clothes to get ready for the Civic Action Fair that was held in the Stouffer’s Exhibition Hall Friday evening. Each of the 30 cities nominated had a booth where they got to strut their stuff. This involved handing out food, buttons and information packages. People grazed on nachos from Texas, shrimp from Alabama, and ice cream cones from Norfolk, VA, as they walked from booth to booth filling bags with handouts.
Through the course of the evening, as wall-to-wall crowds surged by the Jemez Springs booth, Courtney and Kathleen handed out Pueblo of Jemez oven bread, home-made bizcochitos, chili candy and posters donated by the Forest Service. Barbi made sure they got information packets about the village and its businesses and helped Mayor Sanchez with the drawing that had been organized.
Attendees at the Jemez Springs booth drew for prizes that included T-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, chili products, dog biscuits, arts and crafts, and gift certificates – all donated by Jemez businesses. The delegation had planned to play Indian flute music on a portable tape player. But Monrovia, CA, situated right next to the Jemez booth, brought along a tuba player who kept bursting into “California Here I Come” and forming conga lines. By the end of the evening, virtually nothing was left from the 13 boxes that had been shipped from the Village Office.
While a judge told the Mayor afterwards that the decision to give an award to Jemez Springs was never in doubt, the tension at the table mounted as the winners were announced. Finally there were only three more awards left. But as William Winter, former Governor of Mississippi and Foreman of the All-America City jury, started to say why the next award was being given, the Jemez delegation knew that their village had been chosen.
Afterwards, everyone walked over to Jacob’s Field for a party. The Lumberton band played old-fashioned rock and roll and Monrovia once again formed a conga line. Only this time as they snaked by the table someone called out, “Come on, New Mexico, join us,” and gave the winners’ thumbs up. “Way to go, New Mexico,” someone else shouted.
Way to go, Jemez Springs!