(Note: A paragraph was accidentally deleted in an earlier online version of this story. The paragraph has been restored.)
More than 180 people attended a Route 66 documentary screening Thursday night at Tucumcari’s Odeon Theatre that served as a fundraiser to help restore the theater’s façade and neon lighting.
The charity screening was one of the events scheduled around the three-day fall quarterly meeting of New Mexico MainStreet. It was the first time since 2011 — when city’s railroad depot reopened — that New Mexico MainStreet had a quarterly meeting in Tucumcari.
Tucumcari MainStreet executive director Connie Loveland said she thought the screening of the documentary, “Almost Ghosts,” during the quarterly meeting would be well-attended because dozens of fellow MainStreet directors would be sympathetic to the preservation of historic downtown theaters.
Loveland, using a clicker counter, said 186 people attended the event.
Jessica Gonzales, Tucumcari MainStreet secretary who helped with the concessions counter Thursday, said only a few slices were left of six large pizzas supplied by a sponsor. They also stayed busy selling the theater’s usual fare.
Theater manager and owner Christy Dominguez-Lopez didn’t have a final revenue count after the screening Thursday but agreed with Gonzales’ assessment. Dominguez-Lopez said the Odeon sold several large boxes of nachos and chips, and only 12 hotdog buns were left at the end of the evening.
“I didn’t expect this big of a turnout,” she said. “I’m really super-grateful we had this much local support from people in Tucumcari. They’ve been there for me, and they continue to be there for me, for the theater, for the town.”
She said the Odeon’s neon went dark about two years ago. She previously estimated it would cost $40,000 to $50,000 to restore the neon and repaint the façade.
Loveland estimated a total of $5,000 was spent at the theater and Wednesday evening at area food trucks during the Art in the Park event.
The film began about 40 minutes late because of a problem playing its huge digital file. While organizers set up another projector to handle it, New Mexico Route 66 Association president Melissa Lea Beasley killed time by introducing Route 66 business owners in attendance.
“I absolutely love seeing this many people here, to come here to support the theater and support the town and movie,” Beasley said later. “Even the MainStreets that aren’t on Route 66, they get a feel from this and realize the importance getting a dialogue going and keeping businesses alive in any small town area around the country.”
“Almost Ghosts” consisted of interviews with artist Lowell Davis of Carthage, Missouri; musician Harley Russell of Erick, Oklahoma; and barber Angel Delgadillo of Seligman, Arizona, on how they persevered after the interstate bypassed their Route 66 towns. The movie contained brief scenes from current-day Route 66, including nine from Tucumcari and the surrounding area that sparked murmurs of recognition and scattered applause from the audience.
About a half-dozen Tucumcari residents brought their vintage vehicles to park in front of the 1935 theater Thursday, including a 1965 Ford Mustang, 1957 Hudson, 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 and a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.
Loveland said about 60 MainStreet officials from across the state descended on Tucumcari during the meeting.
She estimated 95 hotel nights were booked for the conference, in addition to the spending at restaurants and events.
“There was a lot of investment back into the community. That’s always a good thing,” she said Friday after the meeting had concluded.
Dozens of New Mexico MainStreet officials and locals attended the Art in the Park at Sands Dorsey Park downtown Wednesday. There, people could make a mold of their hands in wax, which will be used by Mesalands Community College art students for a brass sculpture. About 40 people participated in the hand molding amid about a dozen Mesalands sculptures temporarily set up in the park’s lawn.
Loveland said a historic-building walking tour and app set up for a few hours in downtown during the conference proved to be an unexpected success.
“When we went to take the signs down, there were actually tourists out doing the walking tour,” she said. “That had found the signs and started doing it. We definitely will be taking that further.”
During New Mexico MainStreet’s business meeting at the railroad depot Wednesday afternoon, officials listed the things they were looking forward to seeing in Tucumcari: murals, museums, trains, the “Almost Ghosts” screening and even chile relleno pizza.
Loveland said attendees visited TeePee Curios, The Gallery Etc. and the disc-golf course at Five Mile Park.
“They all commented what a great asset the (Tucumcari Mountain) Cheese Factory is,” she added. “I think every person who was here bought cheese.”
“Everything I heard was positive,” she said. “There also were a lot of comments about how positive, how friendly everyone in town was.”
Loveland said there were a few complaints, as well.
“There were a couple of comments about there being no place to get good coffee, which I would love to remedy myself,” she said. “That was the biggest complaint — that, and there wasn’t a Walmart or K-Mart to get supplies.”