Alejandro Escovedo has been on fire lately. After a tough spell that included hurricane-induced PTSD, hepatitis treatments, and a season of creative drift, the Austin legend bounced back at the end of last year with one of the strongest albums of his four-decade career. Produced by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, Burn Something Beautiful is fuzz-toned evidence of Rolling Stone’s observation that Escovedo “is his own genre.” Cover versions of songs by Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, and the Stones provide a sense of his range and influences, but nothing can prepare you for his singular brand of songcraft. At the Skylight Santa Fe on March 4, he’s bound to break your heart with mournful personal ballads, and just as likely to freak out on a 10-minute jam on “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” (505) 982-0775; holdmyticket.com

The romantic notion of train-hopping hoboes crafting intricate boxes and frames from discarded materials has long borne the name “tramp art.” But scholars contend it was more commonly the practice of blue-collar types who simply wanted to give their gals a handmade present. In No Idle Hands: The Myths and Meanings of Tramp Art, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe shows off repurposed cigar boxes, crates, and other found objects from around the world. “Tramp art has had its detractors—people who regard it as the ‘ugly duckling’ of folk art—but also numerous champions,” curator Laura Addison says. Opening March 12 (through September 16, 2018), the exhibit promises to turn visitors into champions by wowing them with the down-home elegance of these often-anonymous artists. (505) 476-1200; international-folkart.org

After a brief founders’ fight over what to dub it, no one expected much of Lea County in 1917. Set within the three-state, 30,000-square-mile grasslands known as the Llano Estacado (a contender for the name), it was largely known as great grazing turf for sprawling ranches like the legendary JAL. Then someone had the bright idea to see what lay beneath the sod. A gusher of an oil boom turned the region into one of New Mexico’s economic pillars. Other pillars cropped up. In the 1940s, the Hobbs Army Air Field opened as a bombardier training school that included actor Jimmy Stewart. It’s now the headquarters for the Soaring Society of America and its national glider championships.

In recent years, Lea County (named in honor of Captain Joseph Calloway Lea, founder of the New Mexico Military Academy in Roswell) has strengthened its tourism bona fides with construction of an events center that draws the likes of Willie Nelson; the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame; the Zia Park Casino, Hotel & Racetrack; and the first-class Rockwind Community Links golf course—all of which augment an annual rodeo set to notch its 82nd year this August. That adds up to plenty of side activities when the county kicks off a yearlong Centennial Celebration with a commemorative Pony Express Ride March 9–17. Relay riders hoof it through Jal, Eunice, Hobbs, Maljamar, Caprock, and Tatum, ending at the steps of the courthouse in Lovington. Along the way, each community offers potlucks and chuck-wagon dinners, and, at the finale, 100 cakes. 

Other March events include a dinner honoring families of the original pioneers and a two-day ranch rodeo at the Lea County Fairgrounds. The winner’s purse could grow as big as $15,000, meaning you’re likely to see some slick moves. Keep your ear tuned for word on a celebratory concert, too. Those dressy cowboy boots deserve to be danced in, after all. (575) 942-1324; leacounty.net

New Mexico’s cowboy roots run deep, all the way back to Spanish colonists and the introduction of livestock in the 16th century. Riding the range really took off with the opening of the Santa Fe Trail and a rush of 19th-century settlers, rustlers, and outlaws. Get a taste of frontier life at the 18th Annual Cowboy Days, March 4–5, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. Enjoy old-timey music, a barbecue dinner, shooting demonstrations, gunfighters, stagecoach rides, arts and crafts booths, and reenactors of Old West traditions—plus real cows, sheep, and horses. (575) 522-4100; nmfarmandranchmuseum.org

What began as a way for local fire-eaters to get their fill has grown into a global showcase for all things capsaicin, as well as Southwestern jewelry, jerky, wine, and olive oil. The 28th Annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show returns to Sandia Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, March 3–5, with samples not limited to candied jalapeños, green chile Bloody Marys, and crunchy pickled green beans that, trust us, shouldn’t be missed. (505) 873-8680; fieryfoodsshow.com

In 1916, Pancho Villa and 450 of his men raided the tiny village of Columbus, just three miles north of the Mexican border. The pre-dawn attack ended in blood and fire, killing 18 Americans and 100 or so Villistas and reducing an entire section of town to cinders. A yearlong chase ensued, but Villa evaded capture. This rare invasion of American soil returns on March 11 with the village’s 18th annual Cabalgata Binacional & Raid Day Commemoration. What makes the remembrance unique is how Columbus rolls out the red carpet for hundreds of Mexicans who travel up to 300 miles on horseback for this ceremony of reconciliation. American greeters include members of the National Guard, reenactors from around the country, the El Paso Sheriff’s Posse, and the Army’s 13th Cavalry Regiment. Columbus residents welcome the binational parade with food, dance groups, mechanical bull rides, and a petting zoo. (575) 531-2620; cnmhs.org/panchovillaraid.html

Head to Albuquerque, chocoholics. The New Mexico Natural History Museum’s 25th annual Chocolate Fantasy fund-raiser, March 11, delivers the goods via a black-tie gala at Sandia Resort & Casino. Besides a buffet and auction, the event pits local chocolatiers against one another to see who can sculpt, invent, and yummify their way to the top of the cacao heap (505-841-2821; chocolategala.org). Keep the sugar rush pumping when Expo New Mexico hosts the Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest, March 25–26, with cooking demos, artisanal lattes, and a Rocky Mountain chocolate high. (505) 933-8650; chocolateandcoffeefest.com

Local theater goes global March 14–30, at the 17th annual Revolutions International Theater Festival in Albuquerque. Tricklock Performance Laboratory welcomes avant-garde troupes from Ukraine, France, Zimbabwe, and Uganda, to name a few, for performances ranging from ancient songs to modern musings. One new production features seven emerging black playwrights—including New Mexico’s own Hakim Bellamy—exploring racial tensions in America. (505) 414-3738; tricklock.com/revolutions-2017

St. Patrick’s Day has a way of bringing out the Irish in almost everyone. Enjoy the craic out of it on March 18 at the Spencer Theater in Alto, with Irish folk band Altan, one of the most influential world-music acts around—their fans and collaborators include Dolly Parton and Allison Krauss (888-818-7872; spencertheater.com). On March 26, the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe hosts County Sligo’s acclaimed traditional band Dervish: Magical Music from Ireland (505-988-1234; lensic.org). Albuquerque holds its Shamrock Fest at Balloon Fiesta Park on March 11, with Celtic games, fiber arts, Gaelic football, and two stages of live music (505-768-6020; nmmag.us/balloonmuseum). And on March 17, Albuquerque’s Irish American Society of New Mexico throws its St. Patrick’s Day Party, where you can try ceili dancing with a belly full of corned beef and cabbage. (505) 307-1700; irishamericansociety-nm.com

During World War II, 1,800 New Mexico National Guardsmen faced three years of horrors while imprisoned in the Philippine Islands. Half of them perished before the war’s end. On March 19, Las Cruces honors their service with the 28th annual Bataan Memorial Death March. The solemn and challenging trudge through 26 miles of the White Sands Missile Range draws runners and walkers—some wearing 35-pound packs—whose steps pound out a promise that we will never forget how much others sacrificed for our freedoms. (See our award-winning 2015 story, nmmag.us/BataanMemorial.) (575) 678-1134; bataanmarch.com 

Ski season winds down with a scramble of silliness, including Sipapu’s Hawaiian Days, March 5–6 (wear your leis and T-shirts), and a Moonlight Hike on March 11 that ends with cocoa by a campfire (800-587-2240; sipapunm.com). Red River closes out the season with tank tops, hula skirts, and fireworks during its annual Beach Weeks, March 4–19 (575-754-2223; redriver.org/events). Ski Apache hosts a series of friendly competitions, including the Shamrock Relay, March 17, where participants dig for gold and then race it through the Easy Street course (800-545-9011; skiapache.com/events). Taos combines a good time with a good deed at its New Belgium Rally in the Valley, March 11. Games, costumes, and wild races involving chickens benefit a local nonprofit. (866) 968-7386; skitaos.com/events

The Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque offers its annual doors-busting Encompass event on March 4, with tours of the historic building’s 39 artist studios, new exhibits, and hands-on art-making activities. The exhibits continue through March 24, but that opening has grown into a don’t-miss, all-ages celebration of contemporary art explorations that always invite community involvement. “It’s my favorite day of the year,” says chief programs officer Julia Mandeville. “Last year, more than 2,000 people came, eyes widening and jaws dropping as soon as they walked in. It highlights some of the most extraordinary things about Albuquerque and our arts community.” (505) 242-6367; harwoodartcenter.org