Chris Olivas stood underneath an apple tree, with his arms stretched toward the sky.
He grabbed a branch in each hand, and with a firm grip, he vigorously shook the tree until a cascade of small, red apples fell to the ground.
Marisol Alvarez, his fiancée, inspected each one before she placed them into a plastic bag to take home, where she planned on turning them into cinnamon-filled apple bread and pies.
Alvarez and Olivas picked the apples during Los Luceros Farm Apple Harvest Festival, Sept. 17, in Alcalde. The event and apple picking were free.
“The property is so beautiful,” Alvarez said.
This is the second year of the Festival and only the second time the public has been allowed to pick apples from the orchard.
The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs purchased the 148-acre property in 2008 from Frank and Ann Cabot.
Patrick Moore is the director of New Mexico Historic Sites, the branch of the Department that runs and maintains Los Luceros. He said this year’s festival was organized in a short amount of time, but more than 1,400 people attended, compared to 400 last year.
Besides picking apples, the festival attendees could watch a Navajo churro sheep-shearing demonstration, taste fresh-pressed apple cider, fish at the river, roam the property on their own or join a group tour of the grounds and the Casa Grande, a 5,700-square-foot, 24-bedroom adobe home.
The long-term goal for the property is to not only hold a yearly festival, but for Los Luceros to become a place to teach the history of the region, with a focus on agricultural history.
“The property is a living, learning lab of Northern New Mexico,” Moore said.
To accomplish this, members of the farming and ranching community created an advisory board to help foster collaboration amongst community stakeholders. They include representatives from the Rio Arriba County and Santa Fe County Extension Offices, the New Mexico Acequia Association and local ranchers and farmers.
Their goal is to find ways to expand year-round programming at Los Luceros, that also underwrites the cost of maintaining the property.
Moore and his team are not the first people to try and utilize the property as an educational resource.
According to a 2013 facility use study of Los Luceros, during former governor Bill Richardson’s administration, employees at the Department focused on turning the property into a film education center, with a focus on outreach to the Hispanic and Native American communities in Rio Arriba County. But the plan never came to fruition.
Besides the success of the festival, Moore said the Board and workers at Los Luceros have come up with new ways to expand the use of the property and generate money.
One project is to open unused fields for crop-sharing and community farming, he said. Farmers already plowed several fields and began preparing them for future use.
“This is an opening to a long-kept secret of Northern New Mexico,” Paul Romero, the property’s head farmer said.
Although this year’s crop of apples was modest, people still left the festival with bags brimming with Winesap, Red and Gold Delicious, Roman Beauty and Double Red Delicious apples.
Tim Seaman, a volunteer from the Abiquiú Acequia Association, used some of those Gold Delicious apples to press fresh apple cider. He tipped bushel baskets full of apples into the funnel of the machine, before inviting children to take turns spinning the press.
Although he said cider tastes better after it’s aged a bit, this did not stop people from lining up, cups in hand, waiting for a sample.
Not far away, Rena and Nelson Edmonds sat on the lawn with their granddaughter Gabriela Velasquez, after picking a bag of apples, tasting the cider and walking through the property.
Rena Edmonds said it is important for people in Alcalde and all over the Española Valley, to come to events like this one.
“There are things like this that kind of bring the community together and we need to take advantage of that,” she said. “You never know until you go.”
Moore said that due to the success of this year’s festival, the Board is already planning how they can improve it next year. They plan to install road signs, of which there were none this year, to direct people to Los Luceros and they want to increase the number of tours.