LAS CRUCES - When country music megastar Garth Brooks was considering his 2017 World Tour stop in Las Cruces, his crew and concert organizers faced several hurdles that cast doubt on a show — let alone five, as it turned out — that could be held at New Mexico State University’s Pan American Center.
The limited size of the venue’s tunnel entrance onto the Pan Am floor presented difficulties that would force the crew to dismantle certain sections of the tour’s massive stage before it could be taken inside the building. The sections would then have to be re-assembled once on the Pan Am floor. It was a daunting task and no road crew wanted to deal with all the complexities.
Enter Garth Brooks, who insisted on the Pan American Center World Tour stop as a personal thank you to his longtime friend and mentor Barbara Hubbard, the former director of Special Events at NMSU who retired in 1996 but still worked tirelessly to attract artists to Las Cruces.
Brooks’ World Tour sold out five shows and attracted more than 60,000 fans to Las Cruces over a three-day period in April 2017. Concertgoers from 47 states purchased tickets to the shows, and Barbara Hubbard’s legacy was cemented — if it wasn’t already — as a pioneer in promotions and local tourism.
In honor of 2022 Women’s History Month, Visit Las Cruces, the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, is honoring Hubbard and three other women for their contributions to tourism that have spanned decades and have helped put Las Cruces on the travel destination roadmap.
Along with Hubbard, Visit Las Cruces is honoring Janet Green, the former Secretary of Tourism for New Mexico and the former Director of New Mexico State University’s Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management Program; Jerean Hutchinson, the owner of La Posta de Mesilla and former regent at New Mexico State University; and Belia Alvarez, the Regional General Manager of Las Cruces Heritage Hotels and current commissioner on the New Mexico Tourism Department’s Tourism Commission.
“These women are trailblazers in the field of tourism and hospitality in Southern New Mexico,” said Rochelle Miller-Hernandez, Director of Visit Las Cruces. “Our tourism and hospitality industry would not be where it’s at if it weren’t for the dedication and contributions made by these amazing women.”
Barbara Hubbard, affectionately known as “Mother Hubbard,” served as Director of Special Events at NMSU from 1968 to 1996 and is credited with bringing the first-ever concert to the Pan American Center. Over the years, Hubbard attracted to Las Cruces numerous entertainers from all genres and employed thousands of students to work the concerts. Hubbard’s American Collegiate Talent Showcase scholarship program has provided opportunities for hundreds of students throughout the U.S. to work internships in the performing arts.
Hubbard will undoubtedly be best known for attracting some of the biggest names in entertainment to Las Cruces, including the likes of Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Tina Turner, Charlie Pride, U2, KISS, Bob Hope, The Eagles, Pearl Jam, Whitney Houston, Foreigner, Jeff Dunham, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Elton John, Billy Joel, Van Halen, Prince and Metallica. Professional boxing cards, wrestling matches, circuses and other traveling extravaganzas attracted thousands more visitors to Las Cruces during Hubbard’s illustrious career.
“For many years, the biggest touring acts traveled along Interstate 10 and found a temporary home for a day, or two, in Las Cruces,” said Miller-Hernandez. “Barbara Hubbard’s shows at the Pan American Center have attracted concertgoers from El Paso, Albuquerque, Tucson and beyond. The tourism revenue generated throughout the years by Barbara’s tireless promotions are impossible to measure, but it’s safe to say her dedication has contributed greatly to our community.”
Janet Green, inducted into the New Mexico Tourism Hall of Fame in 2004, has been a force in the tourism industry throughout her career. Green served as New Mexico Secretary of Tourism, the Director of New Mexico State University’s Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management program and the Chair of Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. Green, who retired in 2018 as Special Assistant to the Chancellor at New Mexico State University, has made countless meaningful strides in the region’s tourism industry.
Green was Director of NMSU’s successful Rural Economic Development Through Tourism project for three years. REDTT focused on working with 17 New Mexico counties to pursue tourism development as a strategy for economic growth. REDTT provides hospitality training to front-line employees in rural and tribal communities.
“Janet has been, and continues to be, a strong proponent of tourism and hospitality in Las Cruces. We’re extremely grateful to call Janet a trusted confidant and friend in the Southern New Mexico tourism industry,” said Miller-Hernandez.
Jerean Camunez Hutchinson, a former Regent at New Mexico State University and long-time area tourism industry partner, is co-owner of La Posta de Mesilla along with her husband Tom. Jerean and Tom purchased La Posta de Mesilla in 1996 from Jerean’s great-aunt and have elevated the restaurant’s status through the years.
La Posta de Mesilla, one of the oldest and most historic restaurants in New Mexico, opened in 1939 and is housed in an 1840’s adobe building that’s on the National Registry of Historic Places. Jerean, a member of the College of Business Hall of Fame at New Mexico State University, ensures that La Posta serves authentic New Mexican cuisine and embraces local farm-to-table principles, using as many locally grown and produced ingredients as possible.
Jerean also owns Hacienda de Mesilla, the only Boutique Hotel, Grille and Cantina in Mesilla. She is also the founder of the Mesilla Jazz and Blues Festival.
“La Posta is a bucket-list destination restaurant for just about everyone who travels to Las Cruces and Mesilla,” Miller-Hernandez said. “We’re proud of the work Jerean has done to create an atmosphere that’s beloved by locals and tourists alike.”
Belia Alvarez is the Regional General Manager of Las Cruces Heritage Hotels and Resorts, including the uniquely Las Cruces experience of the Hotel Encanto and Hilton Garden Inn. Alvarez currently serves on the New Mexico Tourism Department Tourism Commission and on the Advisory Board for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. She formerly served on the New Mexico Hospitality Association Board of Directors.
Alvarez, who has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, is the current Chairwoman for the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Alvarez has also served as an ambassador for Spaceport America and the Executive Director for the New Mexico Multi-Cultural Foundation for Heritage Hotels and Resorts.
“Tourism in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico has been a blossoming industry through the years. It helps employ thousands in the industry and provides great adventures for locals and visitors alike,” said Miller-Hernandez. “Belia Alvarez has been on the forefront of providing services that contribute positively to tourism and the hospitality culture in our region.”
Women’s History Month is a poignant opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by these four women who are pioneers in Southern New Mexico tourism. They have helped put Las Cruces on the map by promoting the region’s rich cultural and agricultural heritage, its lifestyle and breathtaking landscapes, and its hospitality and culinary wonders.
Visit Las Cruces wishes to thank Barbara Hubbard, Janet Green, Jerean Hutchinson and Belia Alvarez — and many others who continue to contribute to the flourishing tourism and hospitality industry in Southern New Mexico. Their dedication has helped promote the region and make Las Cruces and surrounding communities a vibrant, welcoming, and exciting place for visitors.
To learn more about tourism in Las Cruces and Southern New Mexico, go to VisitLasCruces.com.
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This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Visit Las Cruces honors women pioneers in tourism