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Guest View: ‘Wild Hogs’ Puts Spotlight on Madrid

April 19, 2007

By Hugh Hackett

It is a rare event when a small town in New Mexico receives worldwide media exposure. Madrid has experienced just such an event with the March 2 release of Disney's movie "Wild Hogs."

For a few weeks last summer, this small town was transformed by an army of set decorators, landscapers, builders and painters. Overnight, trees appeared, grass sprouted and planters bloomed. Buildings sported bright new paint jobs and the town never looked better.

As the shooting date drew near, the stars were seen wandering around the town. Locals, like avid bird watchers, reported these rare sightings with stoic suppressed excitement.

"We saw John Travolta and Ray Liotta in the bar last night eating pizza," one said.

"Bill Macy was in the coffee shop this morning— sat down right beside me, seems like a nice enough fella," another said.

"Tim Allen— why yes, spoke to him today— but he don't know nothing about carburetors ... !" said still another.

Then the big day arrived. At 7 a.m., dozens of bikers roared up the main street to the newly built Maggie's Diner. Beneath huge sheets of white billowing silk a scene of contained chaos clicked into drive and everything went quiet. Everyone from the stars to the youngest fresh-faced extra knew their place and were ready when the director called "Action!"

Heavens what a sight it was, one not to be soon forgotten. Here they come, John Travolta, Bill Macy, Martin Lawrence and Tim "Tool Time" Allen. Huffing and puffing (not all acting), pushing their hogs up to Maggie's Diner where poor Bill fell for Maggie (Marisa Tomei) and got strung up by the evil rogue biker gang led by none other than Ray Liotta.

Confused tourists wandered around dazed and starstruck, asking amused locals "Where is the chile festival, please?" Hordes of New Mexicans swarmed the town, snapping photos of everyone and anyone that looked remotely like star potential.

Throughout the entire shoot the stars never lost their shine. We must say we developed a greater respect for these media Hollywood icons. Some days they were on set from 6 a.m. to well after midnight. Never once did I see them refuse an autograph or picture with a fan. Bill Macy and John Travolta were always especially charming and obliging.

But all good things must come to an end, and so it was with "Wild Hogs." Peter Fonda put in a cameo appearance that hearkened us old enough to remember back to "Easy Rider." The next day it was over ... the stars were gone, the excitement faded, and we, like the end of many a movie, went back about our normal lives.

"Wild Hogs" was without doubt a truly positive experience for our small town. During the six-week shoot thousands of people visited us and spent a lot of money in our stores and galleries. The crew of over 200 also contributed greatly to our small community. "Wild Hogs" compensated property owners for any use or disturbance of their property. When they left they were as good as their word, leaving our town better and richer than they found it.

Our town, like many old mining towns, has had its share of ups and downs. However, we here in Madrid are fortunate we are ideally located on the Turquoise Trail, or Highway 14 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We are no longer dependent on the price of gold, turquoise or coal to make a living. Our town survives on tourists who come to New Mexico and spend their hard-earned dollars in our town and state. They come for and get a unique experience which only New Mexico can offer— its wonderful blend of vibrant Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures that are truly magical and unique.

Our governor has continued the policy of promoting New Mexico as a film-friendly state. The film industry here has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, and continues to do so. The movie industry brings with it thousands of well paying skilled jobs which our economy needs. It is also eco-friendly, with no visible impact on the environment.

As a tourist-dependent town, we were fortunate that "Wild Hogs" chose our town of Madrid to shoot this film. It brought a much-needed boost to what was shaping up to be a poor season. The price of gas and various other economic forces were making their presence felt not just here, but nationwide. Hundreds of other small towns would have been delighted to facilitate such a venture in their community. We won out over stiff competition, and "Wild Hogs" even agreed to use the name of Madrid rather than Lucas, which was in the original script.

The movie was released March 2 and our town will now receive not just nationwide, but worldwide coverage. We hope the film is successful, as it is a fantastic promotional vehicle for all of New Mexico.

The Turquoise Trail is a beautiful historic road and one of only a handful of scenic highways in the Southwest. We are fortunate in this state to have such beauty, especially between the rapidly growing cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. To drive the trail and stop along the way at Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos is truly delightful.

So see the movie "Wild Hogs" when you need a good laugh, and when you need a break, take the Turquoise Trail, leave your cares behind, and come visit Maggie's Diner movie set, stroll through our galleries and retail stores, have lunch or dinner and enjoy our town.

Welcome to Madrid, where the Wild Hogs roam!

Hugh Hackett is a Madrid resident and business owner.

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