NMHU Celebrates Homecoming and Perseverance Following Wildfires

Estrella Gutierrez shows off her spirit wear Oct. 6 during the 2016 Homecoming Pageant in Ilfeld Auditorium.

September 9, 2022

New Mexico Highlands University is celebrating Homecoming with a wide range of events beginning on September 10 and culminating with the NMHU Cowboys vs. Fort Lewis Skyhawks football game on September 17 and the NMHU women’s soccer game against the Colorado School of Mines on September 18.

Juli Salman, Director of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving at NMHU, said the Homecoming theme this year is “Together we thrive,” which recognizes the hardships NMHU, Las Vegas, and the surrounding communities have faced due to the recent wildfires and ongoing flooding.

“We are hopeful that everything is going to get better and there’s always a positive spirit amongst us all,” Salman said. “‘Together we thrive’ communicates a message about how we are moving forward.”

Homecoming events will kick off on Saturday, September 10, with a concert by the Kumbia Kings All Starz at the Wilson Complex at 6 p.m. The concert was twice postponed due to COVID-19 last year, so Salman said it’s particularly exciting to have them come to Las Vegas for the start of Homecoming. The group, which is led by Selena Quintanilla’s brother, A.B. Quintanilla, will be performing Mexican and Spanish cumbias along with a range of other music. New Mexican country singer Bri Bagwell will open. No tickets are required, but donations will be accepted at the door for fire and flood relief for area residents.

On Sunday, September 11, the 9th annual New Mexico Painters’ Exhibition will open in the Kennedy Gallery from 4 to 7 p.m. The show will feature forty New Mexican painters, including professional artists, students, and community members.

Beginning on Monday, September 12, and running through Thursday, faculty, staff, and community members will give a wide range of HU Talks on topics ranging from fire restoration to ghost stories, green chile, and photography. The talks are free and will be hosted on Zoom so that attendees can listen from any location. Many talks also incorporate a Q&A session. The HU Talk schedule and Zoom link is available at nmhufoundation.org.

“A predominant theme for the HU Talks is the fires and how we are coming back from those and the challenges we’re facing,” Salman said. “People are going to be talking about geology, forestry, and some of the psychological aspects of how the fire has impacted the community.”

Salman said she is particularly looking forward to the Cowboy Lounge, which will be held in the Highlands University Ballroom on Friday, September 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For $20, attendees can enjoy cocktails, good food, music, and the opportunity to bid in a silent auction.

“There’s going to be a great silent auction with really nice vacation packages,” Salman said. “People are really excited about that.”

On Saturday, September 17, Homecoming kicks off with the 5k Gallop & Trot community run on the Gene Torres Golf Course. Registration will take place between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m., and the run begins at 7:45 a.m. The Homecoming Parade will take place immediately following the run and will be accompanied by the annual breakfast burrito bar. A community tailgating event will take place right before the Homecoming game at the Sanchez Family Stadium at 11:30 a.m.

Following the Homecoming game, Olympic rugby player and Highlands University alumnus, Kevon Williams will be honored with a special presentation and gathering.

Four other alumni will also be honored as a part of the Homecoming festivities. This year’s honorees are Forever Cowboy Student Awardee, Carmelita Sanchez; Distinguished Young Alumnus Awardee, Justin Montoya; NMHU Spirit Awardee, Rosemary Montoya; and Distinguished Alumnus Awardee, Max Baca.

Salman said Highlands University usually recognizes an individual’s outstanding contribution to the campus and community by nominating someone as the Parade Grand Marshal, but, this year, the Homecoming committee decided to honor the firefighters and other first responders who worked so hard to protect the community in the spring.

“We decided to recognize all the different agencies in our community that all came together to help everybody out,” Salman said.

Homecoming festivities will end with a women’s soccer game on Sunday, September 18, when the Highlands team will compete with the Colorado School of Mines at 12 p.m. at the NMHU Soccer Complex.