COLLEGE ADVENTURES

The Great Race Returns to Former Glory

55-year WNMU tradition expands to include community events

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In a 55-year tradition where students, faculty, staff and alumni push carts resembling race cars around the Western New Mexico University campus, the operative word has been “fun.”

For 2022, WNMU has expanded the yearly event to invite the community and the rest of New Mexico to celebrate not only the historic race but the freedom to get out and enjoy after two years of being cooped up and restricted.

Fifty-five years ago, Great Race was founded by Western New Mexico University students who sought creative ways of involving the entire region in a festival they conceptualized and organized purely for entertainment.

“To mark the return of the tradition generations of Mustangs have carried on, we are inviting those from near and far to come celebrate the ingenuity and drive of our student body at GR 55 Live,” said WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard. “The festival is our way of allowing everyone — whether 1967 alumni or incoming WNMU freshmen -- to revel in campus culture and dance to music by this generation’s rising stars and by an iconic rock band that many associate with fond memories and good times,”

The weekend of April 22 and 23 caps off the Great Race, said Alexandra Tager, director of WNMU Cultural Affairs.

 “It’s been a fun event everyone looks forward to,” she said. “They push human-powered carts on a course that goes around campus and there is a mud pit that they have to navigate through.”

Tabor said in addition to the race, they decided to make it a larger event so there is a two-night concert that is happening as well.

“On Friday and Saturday nights we have concerts,” she said. “The first night is a young star named Alec Benjamin and then the next night Los Lobos.”

Individual tickets and weekend passes for the main concerts ($25 per adult and $40 per adult, respectively) will be available at wnmu.edu/culture. Those 17 and under will be admitted free both nights. WNMU students, faculty and staff will be admitted free with Mustang ID. Everything else is free including a carnival and games including a washer tournament and a car show. Local live music will also continue through Saturday.

Friday night’s concert and accompanying carnival games are geared toward a pre-college and college crowd, while Saturday night’s show is aimed at a broader American southwest audience. On both nights, food trucks will serve up dinner and refreshments.

“Our goal is to have people come and see what a great, fun, lively campus we have,” Tager said.

Kacie L. Peterson, director of Foundation and Alumni Development within the Western New Mexico University Foundation and a race organizer, remembers the Great Race from her time in high school in Silver City.

“I remember pushing (one of the carts),” she said. “My uncle, who was a science teacher, got us all together and we came up and pushed. I remember it being a lot of fun. Hopefully some of that enthusiasm will come back.”

Peterson has gone in-depth into some of the original race facts.

“It started because the kids wanted something to do,” she said. “In southern New Mexico, you kind of have to create your own fun if you want to have fun. So, it spurred a lot of it was showboating.”

The race began with a group of students who loved to put on productions, like a boxing match, always a big to-do.

“The great race started the same way in 1967,” she said. “It was just this idea that snowballed into this extravagant event. It was all student based, they did all the work and the faculty served the student needs.”

The students don’t build their own cars like they did historically; the school has several carts that the teams use.

“So, it’s kind of flip-flopped a little bit but the energy and excitement is stirring back up to what it used to be in 1967,” Peterson said. “It’s the longest running tradition on campus. It used to be a big deal. It would be really cool to have that kind of excitement again.”