Opening night tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera

Opening night tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera takes parking lot dining to a new level. You’ll see anything from dinner a deux in the bed of a pickup truck to elaborate meals that would rival a formal dinner at Downton Abby. Dress runs the gamut from black tie and gowns or cocktail dresses, to jeans and sometimes elaborate costumes. There’s no shortage of imagination in this crowd.

We walked around with a camera, shooting set-ups that struck us as interesting. Here’s some of what we found.

Paella party for 10

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

Santa Fe artist Doug Coffin in a hand-painted jacket at the elaborate table set for 10 photo/Steve Collins

The most elaborate group, a table of 10 (including a few folks we know), dined on a five-course menu featuring a paella entrée cooked onsite. It was topped with gorgeous-looking lobster tails. Their formal dinner party took parking lot dining to a new level.

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

Putting the finishing touches on the paella, photo/Steve Collins

They were set up directly across from a group that celebrated France (the setting for the opening opera Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment) with a continental five-course menu and a mini-croquet game for guests to play. They also had a few costumed guests.

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

A French soldier on the croquet court, photo/Steve Collins

One group used the lift gate from their SUV to suspend one side of a festively printed canopy. They had a table set up with two folks sitting on the vehicle’s tail and two on chairs.

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

Tailgating under a colorful canopy, photo/Steve Collins

We saw author Anne Hillerman who now pens the popular Joe Chee/Jim Leaphorn mystery series made famous by her father, the late Tony Hillerman. She was presiding over a buffet table while friends sat in bag chairs and feasted.

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

Taking tailgating to a new level photo/Steve Collins

One couple, a former furniture maker and and his wife sat at an elaborate hand-carved wood table that he’d made. It was set up in the back of their pickup truck. They were drinking martinis; the shaker was ready to go if more were needed.

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

Lamb chops fresh off the grill, photo/Steve Collins

The best aromas of the night came from lamb chops cooking on a tableside grill. They made our mouths water.

Santa Fe Opera opening night taigating Steve Collins

A champagne toast:  left to right Kristaan Villela, Jennifer Padilla de Villela, Victor Sherman, Lisa Neal, Stacey Bussy. Carolyn Fairman. Greg Hiner and Kim Kurian  photo Steve Collins

Two large groups were celebrating under tents, one from an assisted-living facility and the other from a gated community where there was a white-coated chef at work. Nearby at a catered cocktail party held by a local vacation house rental company guests standing at bistro tables engaged in animated conversation.

opening night tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera Steve Collins

Opening night, an annual family get together photo/Steve Collins

Seeing everyone eating delicious-looking food, sipping on their drink of choice and engaged in conversation made us wish we’d brought a feast as well. Perhaps next year! Will you be there?

Our Photo of the Week festures another Santa Fe Opera opening night tailgating photo.

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