By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Twenty-three bands from around the world — including Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats — classic cars, a pin-up contest and vendors drew more than 3,500 people to Tucumcari for the fourth annual Rockabilly on the Route.
“Lee Rocker, was amazing he is a very genuine person and it was awesome to have him perform at Rockabilly on the Route,” said Simon Cantlon, event co-founder.
Cantlon said Rocker has contacted him about playing at Rockabilly for the past two years. He said he talked with his management but could never get the scheduling right.
“Rocker emailed me in January and said he wanted to play at the event this year and we made it work,” Cantlon said.
Cantlon said the success of this year’s event went above and beyond expectations.
“Each year the city welcomes visitors to Tucumcari to celebrate the spirit of Route 66 and Rockabilly,” said Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield, who was on hand during the festival and was even a judge for the first ever Mr. Rockabilly on the Route contest.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people — both visitor and locals — come out and take part in this event,” Litchfield said. “It was nice to see so many people dressed up and get in the spirit of Rockabilly.”
Events began Thursday and ran through Sunday, featuring three nights of concerts at the Convention Center as well as live music performances across the city.
Litchfield said the venues throughout the town helped boost the local economy through sales at local merchants and gross receipt taxes.
Cantlon said he and event co-founder Ungie Davila, are happy with how successful the mixture of ticketed and free events at the convention center and various local venues. He said they succeeded in creating a full schedule of events that could be enjoyed.
The goal was to have events for everyone to enjoy, Cantlon added.
Cantlon said this year they added more events and bands to try and keep the event constantly moving. He said over the years he noticed when there were gaps between events the people were also in a lull.
“We don’t want people to be waiting, we want people to come to the festival and there was always something going on,” Cantlon said.
Davila said the several of the new events were well received including a mommy and me pin up contest and first-ever Mr. Rockabilly Contest.
Local residents Dana Pacheco and Sutton Fought won the Mommy and Me pin-up contest.
Another local winner was Logan resident Edwin Bruhn, who won the Best Mustache contest.
Davila said another successful event was the Miss Rockabilly on the Route pin-up competition that was won by Nikole Zamora of Albuquerque.
“I want to help women be confident and proud,” Zamora said. “Being chosen as Miss ROR 2016 will help me to do that more in New Mexico and hopefully elsewhere too.”
Along with the events there were vendors at the convention center and Quay County Fair Barn offering a variety of products including, clothing, make-up, jewelry, Route 66 memorabilia and tattoos.
“This has been a great experience the people of Tucumcari have been so hospitable,” said Jennifer Ferguson, of Fort Worth Texas.
Ferguson said she and her husband, Cliff, own and operate Sassy Pants Traveling Boutique. She said as they were traveling to an event in Nevada they saw billboards for Rockabilly on Interstate 40.
“We thought we’d give it a try and I’m so happy that we did,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said each day she was impressed with the warm and friendly nature of Tucumcari residents, who she said made her feel welcome and treated all the vendors kindly.
“I got such a good feeling from the people that we intend to return for next year’s event,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said she is even looking into returning to Tucumcari during other events possibly Fired Up! in September. She said Fired Up! works well with her traveling schedule as they plan on attending an event in Nevada in October.
Another first time vendor-attending Rockabilly was the Aces and Eights, a mobile wood-fire pizza food truck operate by Ben Benavidez and Jackie Luizzi out of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Benavidez said along with it being the first time attending Rockabilly on the Route, it is the first year he and Luizzi are operating the pizza truck. He said the response to a mobile wood-fire pizza truck at Rockabilly and abroad has been great.
Benavidez said he and Luizzi had been looking into purchasing a food truck for the past two years. He said after a lot of research they settled on the wood-fire pizza.
Benavidez said after Rockabilly they have plans on attending the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis South Dakota.
“We’ve been to several events this year and are happy that we came to Tucumcari,” Benavidez said.
Cantlon said this year he saw many new faces and that is exciting because most people return to the event the following year.
He said while he was out at events he would speak to people and ask them how they heard about the festival. “I hardly ever got the same answer from those that I asked,” Cantlon said. “They all heard about the event in different ways. This means word of this event keeps spreading and it will continue to grow.”
Cantlon said now that the event is over, he and Davila will begin to go over their ideas and thoughts on what works and what needs improvement.
“It’s just barely ended, but we are already working to make next year’s event better,” Cantlon said.