Heritage Days to celebrate a century

Kevin Wilson

More than three months of planning and 100 years of history will come full circle this weekend when Roosevelt County celebrates Heritage Days.
“Heritage Days is a time where a community can come together and celebrate our history, our present and look towards the future,” said Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega.
Ortega said the county’s 100th birthday will play a key role in many of the activities scheduled on Friday and Saturday. The events will begin with a reception for some of Portales’ pioneers at 5 p.m. at the Memorial Building.
Ortega said that most of the work leading up to the celebration was tied in with moving events to City Park. The change in location became necessary with the number of events that were added, according to Gary Watkins, a city councilman who helped organize this year’s celebration.
“This is probably going to be one of the biggest we’ve had in quite a while,” Watkins said. “If we can get a few people to show up, it will be a big success.”
The prime event is the Rough Rider Challenge. Contestants will race in a three-step obstacle course for a cash prize of $500.
Competitors must carry a 50-pound sack of peanuts (25 pounds for women) across a 50-yard stretch that includes two 4-foot hurdles. After that, competitors will ride a horse to the next station, grabbing a pint of milk on the way. The final step of the race is to eat a peanut butter sandwich with the milk.
The challenge is open to anyone 16 years or older and requires a $20 entry fee. Watkins said that local businesses are being targeted for potential contestants.
“We’re trying to get anybody,” Watkins said. “We thought we might be able to hit some business up to challenge (another business), or have a boss challenge an employee.”
The race is similar to Fort Sumner’s Tombstone race, but Ortega said the differences are meant to both reflect Portales’ heritage and prevent the challenge from becoming strictly a measure of strength.
“They have a pretty good thing going on in Fort Sumner,” Ortega said, “but the Rough Rider Challenge is going to be a bigger and better event — at least I think. We decided we wanted to create something that was very unusual, something that would attract people to our Heritage Days event and something that was fair to all.”
The challenge is scheduled for 2 p.m. at City Softball Park, according to a press release from the city.
Other events include a motorcycle rally and parade on Saturday, followed by entertainment in the park throughout the weekend. Each night will end with an 8:30 p.m. dance at the Roosevelt restaurant.
“I think it’s going to be a really great event,” Ortega said. “There’s been a lot of effort from a lot of people to make this a great event.”