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Sunday, June 2, 2002
Last modified at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2002
© 2002 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal


photo: entertainment


 

Lubbock boasts growing cultural scene


Ruidoso Downs offers racing excitement


Tourists in general and horsemen in particular know the trail west out of the South Plains to Ruidoso, N.M. Located 220 miles west of Lubbock in the Sacramento Mountains of south central New Mexico, the city is home to the famed Ruidoso Downs race track and casino.

The annual racing meet opened May 24 and continues through Labor Day with the running of the $2 million All American Futurity.

General admission is free; parking is free unless a patron opts for valet.

Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown plays out each year in Ruidoso. This year's legs are the Ruidoso Futurity on June 9, the Rainbow Futurity on July 21 and the All American on Sept. 2.

Quarter horse handlers are chasing a bigger jackpot this year. Any 2-year-old who can sweep the Triple Crown series earns a $4 million bonus. The only quarter horse Triple Crown winner was Special Effort in 1981.

The new bonus offers an incentive to horsemen who in recent years had bypassed the first two futurities to concentrate on the far more lucrative All American.

The idea showed immediate results. Opening weekend drew a record 224 entries for the Ruidoso Futurity Trials. There were a 23 races needed to handle the trials entries.

Although known more to the casual fan for its famous quarter horse series, Ruidoso Downs features a comparable amount of thoroughbred racing.

New Mexico racing suffered through lean times in the 1990s, but has experienced a recent resurgence since the state Legislature allowed tracks to install slot machines. Part of the revenues have been funneled into pursues, meaning horses are now running for more money.

Ruidoso Downs offers weekday cards starting at 4:30 p.m. CDT on Thursdays and Fridays. Racing starts at 2 p.m. CDT on holidays and weekends.

In many ways, Lubbock actually is a still undiscovered island of cultural and entertainment offerings. The only things missing are the watery boundaries.

Lubbock -- already host to more than two dozen galleries, many with assorted display rooms for multiple exhibits -- obviously has landed one of the summer's art treasures in an exhibit called ''Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection.''

These 31 frescoes are being exhibited only in Lubbock, the first time that the Vatican Museums of Rome have loaned work for display in a single city.

After the exhibit concludes its 31/2-month visit to West Texas, it will return to the Vatican in Rome and not be released for public viewing again until 2005, according to the Rev. Malcolm Neyland. Neyland is the Catholic priest who, in collaboration with Bishop Placido Rodriguez of the Catholic Diocese in Lubbock, convinced the Vatican to send a prestigious exhibit to Lubbock.

A number of Lubbock-based artists also have standing invitations to exhibit at galleries in cities ranging from Los Angeles to Santa Fe, N.M. to several south-Texas metropolitan areas.

Also attracting visitors from across the globe is the Texas Tech International Cultural Center, housing a multi-media library, area studies programs and a Hall of Nations.

Many displays, programs and lectures are earmarked yearly for the ICC.

When one meets British or German visitors in Lubbock, more often than not they are here not to view artistic treasures, but rather because Lubbock also was the home of rock 'n' roll star and innovator Charles Hardin ''Buddy'' Holly.

At one time, Holly might have been celebrated more in England and Germany. But Lubbock hosts the original Buddy Holly statue, near the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center and also is home to a state-of-the-art Buddy Holly Center which includes multi-media and interactive exhibits, as well as galleries.

The center also co-sponsors (with Texas Tech and Texas Monthly magazine) a series of Holly seminars called ''Not Fade Away'' each year during the last days of August and first days of September, and has resurrected the once-annual Buddy Holly Music Festival.

The Buddy Holly Center has become the anchor for an area of town known as the Depot District, an entertainment district housing theaters, nightclubs, restaurants, shops and even an AM radio station (KDAV, 1590-AM) that plays only music from the 1950s and early 1960s and can be enjoyed worldwide over the Internet.

Mexican history is celebrated each fall with multiple concerts and traditional foods at the Fiestas del Llano.

The Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave., is open every weekend, showcasing Lubbock musicians in concert or, often, in musical stage plays.

The Cactus first opened in 1938 as a motion picture theater. It reopened in 1993 under the direction of Lubbock businessman Don Caldwell, who renovated the building and later perfected the acoustics at great expense.

The hottest national musicians often are enjoyed across town at the United Spirit Arena, a 15,000-seat basketball arena for Texas Tech's men's and women's teams which also serves as a modern concert facility. Acts who have played at the USA include Elton John, Dixie Chicks, Rod Stewart, Creed, KISS, Britney Spears, The Eagles and many more.

Few outside West Texas are aware that Lubbock also supports live theater: touring equity and local productions.

Celebrity Attractions is entering its seventh year of bringing Lubbock full seasons of touring Broadway attractions.

Plays that have visited Lubbock include ''Les Miserables,'' Disney's ''Beauty and the Beast,'' ''Chicago,'' the ''Greater Tuna'' comedy trilogy and ''STOMP.''

On occasion, guest stars also are featured, allowing Lubbock to enjoy Carol Channing in ''Hello, Dolly,'' Cathy Rigby in pre-Broadway ''Peter Pan'' and John Davidson in ''Bully.''

But several local theaters plan full seasons of productions, including the Lubbock Community Theatre, now housed at the Lubbock Regional Arts Center.

In addition, the Texas Tech Department of Theatre and Dance also receives support for high quality productions of the classics, comedies and controversial new dramas.

Neil Simon and John Steinbeck will share the stage with ''Angels in America'' and ''The Laramie Project'' in the 2002-2003 season.

A series of original one-act plays receive their stage debuts each spring in Lubbock.

No less than three wineries are in Lubbock -- Cap*Rock Winery, Llano Estacado Winery and Pheasant Ridge Winery.

A 199-acre estate vineyard is located just a few miles from the Cap*Rock Winery, located 1/2-mile east of U.S. 87 on Woodrow Road, south of Lubbock. The Llano Estacado Winery, founded in 1976, is the largest premium winery in Texas. Llano wines have been served all over the world and to prominent world leaders.

Wineries are open for tastings and tours.

Independence Day is a holiday finding residents making a point of staying home rather than leaving town.

Broadway Festivals Inc. makes sure that each year the 4th on Broadway celebration opens with a huge parade, followed by a street festival which closes down Broadway between University Avenue and Avenue Q.

The closing 4th on Broadway concert attracts tens of thousands to Mackenzie Park, and concludes with a colossal fireworks show choreographed to patriotic music performed by the Lubbock Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Lubbock has its own orchestra, The Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, now under the baton of maestro Andrews Sill. The orchestra performs a full season of classical concerts, then performs behind special guest recording artists at an annual Pops concert in the spring.

Ballet Lubbock performs ''The Nutcracker'' on a December weekend each year; executive director is Yvonne Racz.

Finally, April of 2003 will find the Lubbock Arts Alliance staging the 25th annual Lubbock Arts Festival, a three-day celebration of arts held at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

Libby Camp, interim director of the alliance, already has promised a major makeover and exciting surprises for the festival's 25th birthday.


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