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21st Annual ‘Mescal Roast’ Feast for the Senses, Provides Glimpse of Mescalero Culture

by Volume 5, Issue 2

CARLSBAD, NM - Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Parks in Carlsbad, New Mexico will celebrate its 21st annual “Mescal Roast and Mountain Spirit Dance” from May 10-13. This event, which celebrates the culture and history of the Mescalero Apache people, received a Dorothy Mullins Arts and Humanities Award from the National Recreation and Parks Association. The Mescal Roast is sponsored by the Friends of Living Desert.

Single Crown Dancer“The Mescal Roast is truly a special event,” said Ken Britt, Park Superintendent. “The sharing by the Mescalero Apache people is a genuine gift that brings all participants closer together as well as closer to our natural surroundings.”

The Mescal Roast provides a better understanding of the Mescalero Apache people and the importance of protecting the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem upon which the Apache once totally depended.

The mescal plant, also known as agave, was a staple for the Apache who once populated the Pecos River Valley and Guadalupe Mountains of Southeastern New Mexico. Nearly all parts of the mescal plant could be utilized including the leaves, flower stalks, blossoms and seeds. The leaves and stalks were traditionally roasted in large cooking pits and eaten or pounded into cakes and dried in the sun for later consumption. Agave fibers were used to make bowstrings, brushes, sandals and rope.

The Mescalero Apache were eventually forced to relocate following the arrival of U.S. military expeditions and “Buffalo Soldiers” in the 1800’s.

The event commences on Thursday as spiritual leaders bless the roasting pit in which the mescal is placed to prepare for tasting the following Sunday. The ceremony is not a reenactment but an actual ritual observance.

Visitors will be treated to a feast dinner on Friday and Saturday, followed by an interpretive lecture and performance of traditional Apache War/Mountain Spirit dances both nights. The dinner is modeled after traditional feasts served during coming-of-age ceremonies for young women on the reservation. The Mescal Roast draws an average of 2,500 visitors annually.

A schedule of events is as follows:

Thursday, May 10

10:00 a.m. – Prayer ceremony and Mescal pit blessing

Friday, May 11 & Saturday, May 12

All Day – Sales of native American crafts
2:00 p.m. – Mescal Roast and interpretive presentation
6:00 p.m. – Feast dinner
7:00 p.m. – Apache War dance
8:30 p.m. – Mountain Spirit dance

Sunday, May 13

11:00 a.m. – Mescal Pit reopening, Mescal tasting, Closing ceremony and giveaway

Admittance to special daytime activities during the Mescal Roast, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., is free of charge with the park’s normal day-use/admission fee of $5 for adults, $3 for children between 7 and 12 years and free to children under 6 years.

Tickets for Mescal feast dinner on either Friday or Saturday are $15 each, and include all evening activities from 6:00 p.m. until closing. Advanced ticket purchase is recommended, as tickets are limited. Tickets are on sale at the park, by phone or mail.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (LDZG) recently received accreditation from the  association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)’s independent Accreditation Commission. LDZG is dedicated to the conservation of the plants and animals of Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. The park conducts extensive public education programs and actively participates in species conservation efforts.

For more information on LDZG or to purchase tickets to the Mescal Roast, contact the park at (505) 887-5516. Visit State Parks website at

Multiple Crown Dancers


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