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Artwork depicting aspects of the oil and gas industry will be displayed and for sale at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center during the Red Dirt Black Gold Festival and will later be depicted on playing cards for the Artesia Art Deck. (Courtesy photo)

Artwork depicting aspects of the oil and gas industry will be displayed and for sale at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center during the Red Dirt Black Gold Festival and will later be depicted on playing cards for the Artesia Art Deck. (Courtesy photo)

There’s no question the oil and gas industry is what drives Artesia, both economically and societally.

From major corporations to homegrown businesses to the offshoot industries that facilitate it, oil and gas has continued to thrive in the area even when hardships befall the majority of the nation. An overwhelming majority of Artesia’s families contain at least one member who works in the oilfield or in an oilfield-related capacity, and the businesses give back to the community that supports them through donations to local organizations, the public schools, and the healthcare industry.

With all of that in mind, Artesia MainStreet, the Chamber of Commerce, the Artesia Arts Council, and the Artesia Arts & Cultural District wanted to organize an event celebrating the industry and how it makes Artesia unique. Thus, the inaugural Red Dirt Black Gold Festival was born.

“This is the first year we’re doing this event, and it will grow and probably change year after year, but we’ve been talking about doing something like this for several years,” said Rebecca Prendergast, executive director of Artesia Main- Street.

Working in collaboration, the participating organizations have put together a full slate of food, fun, art, music, and, of course, salutes to oil and gas Saturday, Aug. 29, that promises a full day of activities in downtown Artesia.

“Red Dirt refers to the music,” said Prendergast.

The “Red Dirt” genre is named for the color of the soil in the region that spawned it – Oklahoma – and is categorized as a mix of folk, swing, bluegrass and rock.

“Black Gold, of course, refers to the oil and gas industry, because this is a celebration of that industry and how much it affects our families and friends and lives here in Artesia, and how important that is to us.”

The day begins at 8 a.m. in Eagle Draw between Seventh Street and Roselawn Avenue with the Oilfield Olympics.

“Anyone can compete in it, but, of course, oilfield companies are putting teams in so they can compete against each other.”

All events will relate in some way to the work done each day in the field, from the drill bit toss to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


At 9 a.m., the Oilfield Equipment Parade will cruise down Main Street from Bulldog Bowl east to Second Street.

“People will be able to see this equipment that is out in the field that they may not be familiar with but that their families and friends work with every day,” Prendergast said.

“It’ll be fun to see that stuff rolling down Main Street and cheer on the guys who work out in the field.”

Beginning at 10 a.m., downtown merchants will open their doors for shopping and an Art Walk, in which area artists offer their works for sale inside various local businesses. A map of businesses participating in the walk and which artists they will be hosting will be published in the Daily Press this week.

“We’re still seeking artists who want to sell their work at the Art Walk,” Prendergast said.

“Some of our local merchants are opening Saturday just for Red Dirt Black Gold, so the art walk is not only intended to showcase local art but to draw people into the shops.”

In addition, oilfield-related art will be showcased at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center.

Those pieces will be for sale at a cost of $50 each and will also later be depicted on playing cards in an Artesia Art Deck, projected to be complete in time for Light Up Artesia in December.

“It’s fun to see people’s interpretations of the oil and gas industry in their artwork,”

Prendergast said. “We have a great representation of that in downtown Artesia with The Derrick Floor statue, and it was incorporated into several of the pieces, as well.”

The action hits a head at 3 p.m. with the kickoff of the free street concert in the intersection of Roselawn and Texas avenues, the Oilfield Cook-Off, and the NewMexiCan Beer- Fest.

“The BeerFest is kind of a groundbreaking thing, because we’ve never had an event like that downtown,” said Prendergast.

“One of the breweries from Albuquerque is putting it all together, gathering cans and kegs of beer, and people will be able to sample beer from across the state, including our local Wellhead beers.”

There is a 21-and-up age limit for the BeerFest and a $15 admission charge, which includes a commemorative pint glass and the opportunity to sample a certain number of craft beers. Attendees will also be able to purchase beer.

The Oilfield Cook-Off will give local companies’ grill masters the opportunity to show off their skills. With most plants located long distances from restaurants, on-site cooking has become not only a necessity but an art for many.

“For $10, people will be able to try the food and vote for their favorites,” Prendergast said.

“We’ll have celebrity judges picking winners and also a people’s choice award. They’ll be being judged on best food, best presentation of food, best looking rig, and I think it’ll be cool to see those guys, who are used to feeding whole crews, feeding a whole crew of hungry concert- goers.”

The concert will open at 3 p.m. with Lincoln Road, followed by the Judson Cole Band at 4:15 p.m., Sunny Sweeney at 5:30 p.m., Cody Canada and The Departed at 7 p.m., and Turnpike Troubadours at 9 p.m.

Food vendors will also be available in Heritage Plaza.

“We don’t do a New Year’s Eve concert anymore, so we were looking to offer Artesians something in consolation for not doing that,” said Prendergast.

“People really wanted to have a concert downtown. It’s a free concert, just like New Year’s Eve always was, and it’s a great opportunity for people to listen to some great music without having to travel to Midland or Lubbock or Albuquerque.

“I think people are really going to enjoy this event. You can come downtown, stay for the whole day, support our oil and gas workers, artists, and businesses, and just have a great time.”