Treasure of Cortez kicks off Wednesday

Businesses give shoppers a chance to dig for Cortez Cash and other prizes

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Tiffani Waters displays the Cortez Treasure Hunt poster for the contest that begins May 16. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Tiffani Waters displays the Cortez Treasure Hunt poster for the contest that begins May 16.

Land ho, ye scurvy mates.

The Treasure of Cortez will “wash ashore” next month, but buccaneers will have to weave a trail of clues if they want to unlock the secret to glittering booty.

Local businesses have banded together to reward shoppers with the Treasure of Cortez Treasure Hunt, said Tiffani Waters, the hunt’s organizer.

“It is an event that is put on by a whole bunch of local businesses, almost 40, to basically get people out and about and excited about summer,” said Waters, the owner of Love on a Hanger in Cortez. “The main reason the idea came about is we were trying to get people in the doors of our businesses.”

A lucky treasure hunter will scoop up the grand prize — $1,000 in Cortez Cash that can be used like regular cash at local businesses, Waters said. About $1,500 in additional prizes will be rewarded to other winners. Examples of additional prizes include gift cards and coupons.

More than 170 Cortez businesses take Cortez cash just like U.S. currency, said Gayel Alexander, executive director of the Cortez Retail Enhancement Association. The retail association provides Cortez Cash to help promote local shopping.

Alexander, a Cortez native, said she can’t recall any previous treasure hunt used to promote local shopping in Cortez.

“From CREA’s perspective, when she (Waters) brought it to us to advertise (and sponsor), it was a brand new thing that we hadn’t heard anything about,” Alexander said about the idea for a Treasure of Cortez Treasure Hunt.

The month-long treasure hunt will kick off Wednesday when notices in regional papers provide locations where people can pick up “clues” to find the grand prize, Waters said.

“If you want to participate, the way it works is — starting May 16 — clues will be released at six different locations around town,” Waters said.

The six locations are all local business, Waters said. Treasure hunters can go to the businesses and pick up clues.

“The clues — they could be riddles, rhymes …,” Waters said. “Some of them will be very obvious, and some of them will be much more difficult. The clues won’t lead from one place or another. You don’t have to pick up a clue here to learn where to pick up a clue next week.”

Each week, area newspapers will publish locations where treasure hunters can pick up new clues.

The locations where treasure hunters can pick up the final clues will be published the week of June 11. Businesses will provide the clues until June 19, and the grand prize will “wash ashore” June 20.

Newspapers as close as Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Dove Creek — and as far away as Blanding and Monticello, Utah — are scheduled to run the clue pick-up locations, Waters said.

“It’s going to run everywhere,” she said.

Businesses participating in the Treasure of Cortez Treasure Hunt purchased the $1,000 in Cortez Cash from the Cortez Retail Enhancement Association, Alexander said. In turn, the retail association promoted the treasure hunt in area newspapers.

Participants in the hunt are not required to purchase items from any of the businesses that serve as clue pick-up locations, but the hunt will help shoppers learn more about merchandise and services available at local businesses, Waters said.

Treasure hunters must pick up 28 clues to solve the puzzle of where “X” marks the spot. The Treasure of Cortez will “wash ashore” June 20, and whoever finds it first wins.

Instead of finding $1,000 in Cortez Cash, the grand-prize winner must find an item at the designated location where all the clues lead. Then the winner needs to bring the item to Love on a Hanger, Waters said.

“I can’t give away what the treasure (item) will be,” Waters said about revealing the item’s identity before the treasure hunt, “but they will have to bring that in to Love on a Hanger to get the $1,000 in Cortez Cash.”

Secondary winners will be determined by drawing names from a pot, Waters said. Each time a treasure hunter picks up a clue at a local business, their name goes in the pot one time for the drawing.

Although treasure hunters need to pick up 28 clues and solve them to find the grand prize, people who pick up fewer than 28 clues can still win a secondary prize, Waters said. Each participant can win a maximum of one prize.

“If you pick up five clues, your name will be in the pot five times,” she said. “If you pick up 28 clues, your name will be in the pot 28 times — but you can only win one prize.”

Treasure hunt sponsors include a wide range of businesses, such as Citizen’s State Bank, Four States Tire, Netforce PC, Shiloh Steakhouse, Slavens True Value Hardware and The Family Shoe Store.

Alexander said it’s too early to provide much feedback on the treasure hunt since it hasn’t started yet, but she hopes if it goes well this year more businesses will get involved in the future.

“I’m excited she (Waters) got as many businesses to participate as she did,” Alexander said. “I hope it’s successful and grows into a bigger event next year. I think it has potential.”

Treasure hunters must be at least 16 years old to participate.

For more information about the Treasure of Cortez Treasure Hunt, contact Tiffani Waters at Love on a Hanger, 565-9075.

Reach Russell Smyth at or 564-6030.

Gayel Alexander Enlargephoto

Gayel Alexander