September 21, 2018

What Is Whatville?

By Megan Bennett / Journal North Reporter

Ray Renfroe wanted to create a place that can elicit happiness for whoever drops by. But how the little village he’s put together does that, exactly, is difficult for him to put into words.

Still, surrounded by his jumbled 10-acre art installation in Angel Fire, he said there’s something that’s calming in the way it provides contrast between simplicity and “craziness.” “There’s just something there,” he said. “It just speaks … it does what it does.” Renfroe, 63-year-old artist and tiny home builder, has been working on Whatville for the past year and a half. He purchased the plot of land two years ago. When finished – what “finished” means in this case may be hard to define – he hopes to turn his vision into an economic driver for Angel Fire as a venue for commerce and entertainment. “I just want to see people have fun … . That’s my feeling,” said the Texas native and former home builder who moved to Angel Fire in 1990. “I want to see families. That’s what I want. That smile is worth more than a million bucks. It just is.”

Whatville, made up largely of colorful wooden structures, collected objects and art pieces made by Renfroe, is set in the imaginary “Shadow National Forest.” That names refers to his heavy use of dead aspen sticks with the roots and pitchwood that was burned in forest fires. “… Stuff like that only creates a shadow, anyway,” he said. “Not shade, a shadow.”

The work-in-progress doesn’t adhere to one artistic story line. But some parts of it were designed with vague religious themes. As Renfroe put it, it’s his own version of “His story.” “Without getting into the whole B.S. of that,” he clarified. A vintage typewriter has found a new purpose as part of Ray Renfroe’s Whatville.

He pointed out a wooden teepee at Whatville’s entrance that has an old typewriter (where a story might be created, get it?) at the bottom. Eventually, there will be a finger coming out of the ground pointing toward the typewriter. On a nearby wall, there’s his take on the Cain and Abel story using two ceramic chickens. To depict Cain as self-righteous, one of Renfroe’s chickens is surrounded by a large white frame. Several feet above that abstract scene is an allusion to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”: a white staircase leading to the sky with two different high heel shoes positioned as if they are stepping upward. On another large wall, he’s constructed the word “love” in white letters. Next to “love,” he’s attached a fire extinguisher that symbolically points down to the word “hate.”

“Just kind of little thoughts,” he said. “Stuff that ties in how He talks to us now, and how He may talk to us then.” Ray Renfroe’s Whatville is a jumble of color and junk.

But other parts of his creation, Renfroe says, are simply pieces that he either made or found and put together. He gathered his thousands of sticks from the nearby Valley of the Utes to make teepee structures and other design elements. His “electric teepees” are the ones made from sticks that he’s painted bright shades of orange, purple, lime green, teal and other colors. Some of those teepees also light up at night, making his creation even more noticeable to those driving into Angel Fire on Mountain View Boulevard. He used plywood to make most of his design accents, including black-and-white striped or multicolored beams, large arrows and other small, vibrant cutouts made to look like cars, horses and stars. Dozens of collected deer antlers protrude from walls and come out of old cars.

These are some of the items that Ray Renfroe has collected to make Whatville near Angel Fire.

Random items – a bathtub, several old bicycles, a stuffed animal mouse and an antique lawnmower, to name a few – are placed throughout the installation. Renfroe either had or found these things at thrift shops or they were on their way to the local trash dump. But he invested in some large pieces, including several old trucks that he purchased in Española. A personal haven The installation is something of a personal haven for Renfroe. Part of his inspiration for creating it, he said, was the death of his son, Cody Blue, in 2001. “When you got a boy here, a son here buried, you’re not going to leave,” the father of four explained. “I was almost going to leave two or three years ago. So, I guess the way things work (is) this came about and, oh man, this could make me not want to leave.” He said it was important to make a place that is visually exciting and can constantly change. “When you’re gone, you don’t see any more, do you?” he added. As a nod to the area’s history, Renfroe pointed out the shell of a 1940s-era Dodge logging truck, mounted several feet off the ground near Whatville’s entrance, that he bought from a man in Guadalupita, to the south in rural Mora County. The Whatville site used to belong to a family of loggers and possible farmers believed to have settled in the valley in the late 19th century around the time of the Homestead Act, according to Judy Piper, a fourth-generation Angel Fire resident and an unofficial town historian. She added that the acreage had long sat abandoned before Renfroe came along. Decadesold structures still standing on the property, a small home and worn-down barn, became part of the installation. Renfroe is also building a new barn, which he hopes to complete by winter, envisioning it as a “cool, open-air” place for retail vendors.

“We’re losing that really early hippie kind of the deal that New Mexico was known (for), with all this modern (B.S.), I feel,” said Renfroe. He used to visit the Angel Fire area often because his father owned a cabin here, he said, as he spoke near the side of the barn where he’s made large letters that spell out “Stay Lost.” “When we came out in the ’70s, you’d see (expletive) like this all over,” he said.

Business hub? An old Chevrolet stands out as one of the bigger items collected to make Whatville.

When he looks out at Whatville, Renfroe sees a potential hub for local commerce and entertainment that could attract tourism to Angel Fire, beyond the appeal of its popular ski resort, and give a younger locals an opportunity to stay and work in town. He thinks a business stationed in a funky spot like his would help attract customers. Admission will be free, but he has dreams of building a concert stage, bringing in food trucks, allowing space for tiny home owners and opening up rentable spaces for vendors. On his own, he plans to create stations where families can participate in the installation by paying a few dollars to paint sticks or buy Whatville T-shirts. “I see myself (as) a palm,” he said. “And if we can get some good damn fingers, we’re going to have a good place that is going to bring good.”

Now, he says he’s focused on finding a partner to invest and help him complete the project. Renfroe hopes to get most of the work done by the time snow falls this year. Whatville could be a positive addition to the local art scene and overall community, said Jo Mixon, president of Angel Fire’s Chamber of Commerce and of Art Up Northern New Mexico. Whatville will be part of her arts organization’s annual studio tour later this month and the group has spoken with Renfroe about the possibility of applying for grants. “It’s a great little place,” she said. “And he’s so (a) New Mexico artist. Everything he does is with vision and creativity. He believes in wanting to bring economic value to this area, and I think he can do it.” In an email statement, mayor Barbara Cottam also praised the project.

“Our goal is to let people know about the beauty, and all there is to do and see here in the beautiful Village of Angel Fire,” the statement reads. “New Mexico offers some of the most memorable and eclectic art in the county, and we believe Whatville is now something that folks will want to drive up and check out for themselves.” Renfro acknowledged that his installation is large and the vision is a bit out there. He hopes any local skeptics will be able to see its benefit when its up and running.

Asked if he had a favorite part of Whatville, Renfroe could not choose. To him, it still all feels so unfinished. “It’ll come,” he said. “Is it as quick as I want? I don’t know. So I’ll keep chugging.”

Antlers and an old push lawnmower are among the found items that Ray Renfroe used to make Whatville.

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Market Holiday Vendor Call

Join us for a festive fun filled atmosphere to sell your wares. Items do not have to be hand made. We are looking for arts and crafters, artists, Christmas gift items, antiques, local businesses, food vendors, bake sales, churches and school groups and entertainers.

Please note: We only have 5 booth spaces unspoken for as of today for vendors, plus 4 non-profit table spaces and 2 food vendors spots. If you or someone you know, would like to be a part of this amazing Holiday Market, please go to one of the above websites, download the application, rules and maps,
then reserve your spot today!

We are also now scheduling entertainment. We welcome choirs, school groups, individuals, dancers, etc. Any kind of entertainment keeping in the Holiday Spirit!

Applications may be picked up at the Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce or download at these websites:

You will also find a map of space sizes and fees.

For more information call Jo at 575-377-6353.

New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Executive Association

By Jo Mixon, President & CEO Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce

Group photo taken at the Freeport-McMoRan Copper Mine in Silver City, NM

I spent all last week in Silver City, New Mexico at the Summer Conference of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Executives Association to which I serve as 2018 President. Attended by Chamber leaders from all over the state of New Mexico, the agenda included leadership training with Cathi Hight, a special session with New Mexico State Secretary of Public Education, Christopher Ruszkowski, discussion about New Mexico State Liquor Licensing with State Representative Rebecca Dow, Community-Business Partnerships for Workforce Development by Curtis Clough and a tour of the Freeport-McMoRan Copper Mine. On Thursday night we were hosted to a dinner at the Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House in Pinos Alto by Western New Mexico University President Dr. Joseph Shepard. We learned how to host customer service training in our own areas by Glen Shepard Seminars and on Weds. we were treated to an old fashioned root beer float break! I find in any and all professions, it is good to be continually learning and training. It is also good to spend time with others in your field of expertise as a means of networking and mentoring.

The purpose of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Association is to improve members of the organizations management techniques, to promote professionalism of the executives (utilizing scholarships for continuing education), to promote fellowship among the New Mexico chambers, facilitating and encouraging the exchange of information relating to organization management methods, data collected with activities and projects and to inform, stimulate. and encourage our members to study and take positions on problems affecting the State of New Mexico, both as an organization and as individual chambers.

As a small rural chamber, this organization has provided a lifeline for us to be involved with the other chambers of New Mexico and it benefits us in legislative issues. Just as our chamber is an organization to promote the community and unity of the businesses in Angel Fire, the state chamber NMCEA association gives us an even greater voice. Our memberships represent over 10,000 businesses in New Mexico. Together as one voice, we are a strong voice for commerce.

Chambers of Commerce Offer More than Networking

The Angel Fire Chamber Traveling Chair obtained state recognition this month by Finance New Mexico and made it into their monthly newsletter, complete with photo and directions to the chair’s Facebook page!

Finance New Mexico on August 15, 2018 at 4:31 PM wrote:

This is one of the most creative member benefits we’ve seen in a long time. Well done Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce You (and your chair) were mentioned in our recent article

Chambers of Commerce Offer More than Networking

Chambers of commerce are trade associations charged with creating a business-friendly environment for their members in the communities where they’re based. They do this by advocating, educating and providing a variety of publicity tools.

While most chambers have a singular mission to support commercial activity, others advocate on behalf of businesses…

To encourage commerce among members, most New Mexico chambers provide printed or online membership directories and offer networking, advertising and referrals. But because chambers of commerce reflect their communities, other member benefits can vary widely among the state’s towns and cities.

Most chambers let members advertise on their official website, the membership directory or newsletters. The ads let members know the sponsoring businesses support the local business community. Chambers also increase member visibility through occasional contests and awards.

The chamber in Angel Fire, for example, sponsors a contest to build publicity for member businesses as it encourages hometown shopping. Every Monday throughout the summer, the chamber’s brightly painted rocking chair is delivered to a different unidentified member business, where customers, staff and visitors can take “selfie” photographs in the chair and hint at its location.

These photos are posted on it’s own Facebook page, along with a positive sentence about the mystery business, and are entered in an August 31 drawing. The winner gets a cash prize, but all participating businesses win through publicity. Visit the chair’s page to see where it has visited:

More than anything, chambers encourage relationships that are built on trust and shared interests that make our communities better places for everyone.
To find chambers of commerce in New Mexico, use the search engine at or search by location using the Municipal Index tab

My thoughts On The Extreme Conditions Curtailing Activities

By Jo Mixon

I almost hesitate to write this but the calls we are receiving from people who are coming to spend their vacation over the 4th, have really saddened me. For the most part, the callers have been gracious about the Carson National Forest being closed and northern New Mexico being under a strict Burn Ban, but more than a few have been very upset and what I deem as selfish.

First I want to assure all of our visitors, none of this is being done to ruin your vacation. It is to preserve our forest and our villages (this includes our homes and businesses), so you might get to continue spending your vacations with us in the future.

The Forest Service issued a statement: “To say it’s “dry” is an understatement. The latest US Drought Monitor shows New Mexico remains in severe to exceptional drought across much of the state. Recent, spotty storms have only produced lightning and more wildfires. What we do not need are fireworks sparking more dangerous fires. Please be cautious and play it safe this long holiday weekend leading up to the 4th of July.”
There will be times until the fires are out, when smoke and ash float over to Angel Fire and the air quality is not as fresh as we are used to, during those times take precaution.

And remember just because you cannot take your ATV’s and jeeps into the forest or hike to Wheeler Peak or camp in your favorite place in the canyon, have campfires, smoke outside or light your fireworks this year, there are still so many fun things to do, it is hard to count them all.

Ellen Goins published a list of things to do in the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle:

Angel Fire Resort is on private land and so will continue to offer a host of activities that include:

  • Monte Verde Lake –Fishing, standup paddleboarding or pedalboating on the water and Eurobungy & Climbing Wall on the shore. Picnicing and an easy walking path around the Lake
  • Angel Fire Bike Park -Downhill Mountain Biking at the largest Bike Park in the Rocky Mountains. If you have never ridden a Bike Park or are a beginner to downhill riding, this is the perfect time to take a lesson or a guided ride. Riders will be introduced to elements of bike control through body positioning, braking and cornering on a gentle slope under the guidance of an instructor.
  • Angel Fire Resort Mountain Area -Scenic chairlift rides take you to the summit of our mountain at 10,677 feet. Explore one of the hiking trails, play disc golf or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the valley views. When you are ready to head back, you have the option of either hiking down or riding the chairlift back to the base area.
  • Zipline Adventure Tours. You must weigh at least 90 pounds to enjoy the full Adventure Tour, but this summer the resort is offering the Family Flyer – two shorter ziplines for those who weigh 50 pounds or more.
  • Angel Fire Greenbelt Trails: Hiking or biking on one of the Greenbelt trail system in the Village of Angel Fire is a free-access system of trails that can be used for cross-country mountain biking, running or even hiking and there are several bike rental shops.
  • Angel Fire Tennis Center has six hard courts, including two Pickle Ball courts for use by Resort members, guests and visitors to the Moreno Valley.
  • Angel Fire Resort Golf Course -call 575-377-4488 for tee times
  • Free Friday Night Concerts in the Park, Fridays 5:00 pm to 7:30 p.m
  • Angel Fire Art + Farmers’ Market -Sundays 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Eagle Nest options:

Eagle Nest Lake State Park is open for shore and boat fishing. Additionally, the Eagle Nest community is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Eagle Nest Dam June 30 to July 7 with events that include dam tours, music, kite flying, a canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard races, family activities, and more.

  • Ongoing and Seasonal Activities/Events in Eagle Nest

– June thru September include:

  • Dam Tours on Land by Gateway Museum. 505-603-9985
  • Dam Tours by Boat by Eagle Nest Adventures. 575-252-3252
  • Self-guided flora and fauna trail walks around Eagle Nest Lake. 575-377-1594
  • Farmer’s Market – Fridays thru the 1st Friday in September. 575-377-6188

Red River Ski & Summer Area received a special exemption for activities that include:

  • Scenic Summer Chairlift Rides – Hidden Treasures Aerial Park -Summer Mountain Tubing -Pioneer Flyer Zipline
    Additionally, the “Walk with a Ranger” is now a “Talk with a Ranger” at the Tip Restaurant Deck every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11 a.m. and the Tip Restaurant will serve food and beer along with the “Music on Top” concert series very Saturday at 11 a.m. on the deck.

Red River Visitor Center also gathered the following list:

  • Rent a bike or ride a surrey at Sitzmark Sports, Red River Community House events that include Hobbies in the House, Nature Hikes, Volleyball, Games on the Lawn, Story Time, Bingo, workouts, Line Dancing Lessons,Line Dancing, Kid’s Nature Crafts, S’mores & Stories, Senior Games, Movies in the Mountains, Jammin’ on the Porch, Red River History Hikes, and more. A schedule is available at the Red River Visitor’s Center or here. Fly fishing with local guides – Fagan’s Guided Fly Fishing, Red River Angler & Sport, Star Trading Post & Angler Fly Shop. Red River Angler and Sport also offers 4×4 tours at ETown, Rio grande rafting, horseback riding and guided rock climbing.
  • Fishing the Red River (within town limits and on the side that is not part of the Carson National Forest_ Town Pond, Eagle Rock Lake in Questa, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument (Wild Rivers) and the Red River Fish Hatchery. Horseback riding tour through town and at Elizabethtown – Red River Stables & New Mexico Adventure Co.
  • Horseback riding on Bobcat Pass (private ranch tour) – Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures. Gunfights every Saturday at 4 p.m. and Wild West music Thursday’s at 4 p.m. – Frye’s Old Town. Bobcat Pass Cowboy Evenings on Tuesday’s, Thursday’s & Saturday’s, Live music – Motherlode Saloon, Bull O’ the Woods Saloon, The Lost Love Saloon, Red River Brewing Company. Ride the Go-Karts at The Pit Stop
  • E-Town 4×4 Tours on a private ranch – Red River Mountain Adventures, New Mexico Adventure Company. Weezie’s Wild Rides will trailer UTVs to the BLM grounds near Cerro (west of Red River and just north of Questa) as well as west of the John Dunn Bridge and trails west of there. Michael Martin Murphey concert at Bitter Creek Ranch (begins July 30) Disc Golf, volleyball and skate park at Mallette Park.
  • Plus BLM land remains under Stage II restrictions, which means the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is open for camping and recreational use. The Wild Rivers Recreation Area offers several hiking trails. Take State Road 378, three miles north of Questa off Highway 522. Pay a day-use or camping fee at self-serve stations near trail heads. Info, 575-758-8851.

We love our visitors and we truly want you to have a wonderful vacation experience. Please obey the rules during this dangerous, dry time and help us to preserve the natural beauty that brings you back year after year to share it with us!

Chamber Business After Hours

Business After Hours include hors d’oeuvres and drinks, networking and door prizes.

Everyone is welcome, both members and non-members of the Chamber of Commerce!

July 17, 2018
Angel Fire Family Dentistry
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
27479 Highway 64
Angel Fire, NM 87710

July 31, 2018
Land & Homes Services / Northeastern Construction
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
52 N Angel Fire Rd
Angel Fire, NM 87710

August 15, 2018
Goodnight Electronics / Moore Home Care
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
3453 Mountain View Blvd
Angel Fire, NM 87710

International Bank
Date TBA

The Summer Adventures Of The Traveling Chamber Chair

Enter to win $250.00 Cash Prize

It’s Easy! First Find the Chair!

Live Drawing August 31, 2018

Where was the chair last week? At the Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce in the foyer. These people found the Traveling Chamber Chair during Week 1. They are now entered to win $250.00 cash prize!

How to Enter to Win the Summer Adventures of the Traveling Chamber Chair Grand Prize of $250.00

Here is all you have to do:

1. From the photo posted, find the member business where the Traveling Chamber Chair is visiting each week and go take a selfie, or have someone take a photo for you, sitting in, with or around the Traveling Chamber Chair. While you are there, take the time to visit the business (maybe make a purchase) and tell them how much you appreciate them!

2. Next, upload and post your photo on the Traveling Chamber Chair’s Face Book Page, the link is below, along with at least one positive sentence about the business who is hosting that week. Tell us what you like! Do not include the name of the business in your post! (Without the positive statement, your photo will be removed and disqualified)

3. You may enter one time per business location, once a week.

4. All photos and positive comments will go into the drawing.

5. Drawing will be held live, on Facebook, on August 31, 2018.

Who is eligible to enter? Everyone over the age of 18 years old. Residents and visitors!

You do not have to be a Chamber member to participate. Group photos are welcome. Be sure to designate the person or group the photo belongs to for an entry into the drawing that week. There may be children under the age of 18 in your photos, but they are not eligible for the grand prize. Questions? Call 575-377-6353.

Advocates Corner

At the Chamber Quarterly Membership Meeting last week, an idea came from the attendees to form a Community Coalition group to start looking into ways of achieving a more environmentally friendly community and to advance more sustainable living practices in Angel Fire.

It will be a community partnership, pulling together those concerned in the business community, the private community, the Chamber, the Village and the Resort… anyone who has an interest in maintaining the sustainable integrity of the Moreno Valley.

We received a letter from the Village Administrator explaining why the recycling of plastics and glass has been stopped in Angel Fire. It was obvious at the meeting, concerned citizens are willing to help find solutions. How? We don’t have the answer to that question, thus the forming of this coalition. We will research and put into action possible answers.

If this is an important issue to you and you are willing to roll up your sleeves and “walk the walk” and get down to business, not just spend our time blaming others and complaining about it, consider being a part of this group. Thank you in advance for stepping up.

This group will meet on June 20 at 5:30 pm at the Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce. We will prepare an agenda, as well as a suggested Mission Statement with Goals. In particular, at this first meeting will likely fine tune the scope of this coalition.

If you this is an issue close to your heart, please become an active participant. Simply email to sign up. Thank you.

New Chamber Office Hours

The Angel Fire Chamber has extended operational hours and will now open at 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, Tuesday to Friday. Plus we will remain open during the lunch hour, as we move to a four-day work week. We want to be frugal with our finances and believe this is a fiscally sound step to take. Thank you!

Monday – By appointment
Tuesday – 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Wednesday – 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Thursday – 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Friday – 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday – Closed
Sunday – Closed

CFT Decor & Gifts Says “I Know Jo, Do You?”

By Jo Mixon

Jo & Franchescca Zoppe, Owner of CFT Decor and Gifts

After retirement from a very stressful high tech position, Franchescca Zoppe, an Angel Fire resident, decided, like many others, she wasn’t ready to totally retire. In 2016 she chose to purchase Country Furnishings of Taos, a well established gift and furniture shop. I asked her what the attraction was to this store and she said, “The ambiance and the employees”. She has a huge amount of respect for her employees. Brenda has been there 25 years, Holly 15 years and Sherry 6 years. I found them friendly, knowledgeable and extremely helpful.

The store is an old adobe house, constructed in the 1930’s. It opened as a business in 1986 and has been thoroughly renovated. Plus it has been expanded twice in order to accommodate steady growth. It’s concept has been very successful! Now with Franchescca at the helm, she is adding her own touches and expanding their footprint. She changed the name to CFT Decor and Gifts but remains completely committed to continuing the tradition of providing an eclectic shopping experience for her customers. Her decor and gifts are a mixture of handcrafted and manufactured items. She has twenty+ artists and artisans represented. They are from Taos, Angel Fire, northern New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. She also loves and appreciates her customers. Some of them tell her the store is their destination shopping place when they come to visit Taos, where they find one-of-a-kind treasures!

When you visit her website it says, “Our merchandise is colorful, innovative and fun, and features artwork from local artists. Whether you are searching for a hand-carved headboard with vividly painted poppies, brightly colored pottery, candles, children toys, books or more, we have the perfect addition for your home or the perfect gift for family or friends. Here, besides ensuring our store is stocked with unique, inspiring items, our priority is customer service.”

I couldn’t agree more! As I wandered from room to room I found whimsical, creative items with pops of color here and there that would add perfect accent pieces to any decor. Franchescca calls it a potpourri of color. I could have wandered around browsing and buying for hours. You absolutely must stop in the next time you are in Taos!

Plus CFT Decor and Gifts offers a gift and wedding registry, which is unique to Taos. If they don’t have what you are looking for, they will order it and have it for you as soon as possible. Good thing to know!

CFT Decor and Gifts
534 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Taos, New Mexico
Open Monday thru Saturday
10:00 am to 5:30 pm