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Friday, July 30, 2010

Spirits of Cibola County

As promised Friday’s Feature will soon contain true stories about the people of Cibola County. Since I have lived in Grants, NM for over thirty years I consider it my adopted hometown. To preface the stories I thought I would tell you a little about it so you can feel at home too. The 2000 census found that we had 8,806 residents. Grants is 6,460 ft. above sea level. It lies at the foot of Mt. Taylor (elevation 11, 305 ft), considered one of the four sacred mountains by Native Americans.

The town began as a railroad camp in the 1800s, first named after three Canadian brothers who were awarded a contract to build a section of the Atlantic and Pacific railway through the region. The camp was called Grants Camp, then Grants Station and finally Grants. The town grew as the result of railroad logging in the Zuni Mountains. After the decline of logging in the 1930s Grants became known as the “Carrot Capital” of the U.S. The volcanic soil proved ideal for farming and the railroad efficiently transported the product to merchants.

1950 brought uranium, discovered by Paddy Martinez, a Navajo shepherd. The mining boom lasted until the early 1980s. Since then Grants has been trying to recover, focusing on the beauty of the region and near by tourist attractions. Efforts have also been made to promote it as a retirement community. Grants is a quiet little town with great weather- nothing drastic like tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or flooding. We just have a little rain, a little wind, a little snow and a lot of sunshine.

Grants is located 70 miles West of Albuquerque with 3 casinos in between and 60 miles East of Gallup with I casino on the way, for those in a gambling mood. The area is the home of four Native American Pueblos: Acoma, Laguna, Zuni and Navajo. Chaco Canyon is also the site of the ancient ruins of the Anasazi Tribe. Historic sites include the Sandstone Bluffs, El Malpais National Monument, El Morro, Acoma-Sky City and mesas and lava beds.

The major employers are three prisons, New Mexico State University Grants Campus, Cibola General Hospital, Grants Good Samaritan Center and Wal-Mart. The rest is like any other small town in Anywhere USA.

Our most renowned event is the Winter Quadrathlon held in February. It attracts participants from all over the world. The start to finish race is 44 miles and includes biking, running, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. The race starts in town, goes up Mt. Taylor and back to town. It is run as a group of four or as a single person. Participants are very tired when they finish!

The other local events are La Fiesta De Colores (celebrating Spanish heritage), Bi-County Fair and Rodeo and coming up in October the Fall Chili Festival.

Well my temporary job as a travel guide has ended and I hope you have enjoyed the trip. As promised, next Friday I will begin the individual stories of the Spirits of Cibola County.

(I took this photo of Mt. Taylor Jan. 1,2010)