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Annual Mancos Melt celebrates valley’s creative community

Annual event raises funds for Mancos Valley Creative District

This year’s Mancos Melt festival ended in flames as residents bid a dramatic farewell to winter and the previous year.

Organized by the Mancos Valley Creative District for the first time, the annual two-day festival included the traditional bed races down Grand Avenue, a children’s parade, a putt-putt golf tournament and a Burning Man-themed costume contest, among other activities. The event raised almost $2,000 for the Creative District, which will be used to help create a new makerspace for artists and students. But the Melt’s grand finale came at sunset on Saturday, when nearly 100 people gathered at Mancos Brewing Co. to watch a wooden sculpture of a man, created by local artists several weeks earlier, go up in smoke.

While they waited for the bonfire, people in top hats, colorful wigs, steampunk jewelry and other costumes mingled over drinks from the brewery and live music from local AfroBeatniks band. Many attendees wrote notes or drew pictures on pieces of paper, provided by the Creative District, and pinned them onto the sculpture before event coordinator Rena Wilson lighted it.

Creative District director Sarah Syverson said the notes were meant to represent things Mancos residents wanted to “let go of,” or welcome into the coming year.

Tami Graham, a resident who has attended the Burning Man festival in Nevada several times, said she was excited about this year’s Mancos Melt theme. She said that while the town might not be able to draw 80,000 people like the real festival, its small-scale event captured the same spirit of creativity and catharsis.

“I think Mancos can do the best part of Burning Man, which is the creativity,” Graham said. “This is like a little micro-version of it.”

Different Mancos residents were rewarded for their creativity throughout the event with contest prizes, donated by a long list of local businesses and nonprofits. During the Thursday night party that started the event, Holly Cruser, Linda Simmons and Tess Lynston all won prizes for their costumes. In Saturday’s costume contest, Rob and Mary Wilson won a trip to Durango’s General Palmer Hotel for their St. Patrick’s Day-themed outfits, and Outlier Cellars Cidery won a Mancos Liquor prize for its putt-putt golf course design.

By the end of the day, Wilson said she felt the Creative District’s first time organizing the Melt had been a success.

“I think it was probably our best Mancos Melt,” she said.

Graham said she hoped the “burning of the Man” could become a permanent part of the festival, and Wilson said she had heard that request from several other people as well.

Members of the Mancos Fire Department stood by with a truck during the bonfire, but it stayed under control. Wilson said Saturday’s warm temperatures and low winds worked in organizers’ favor, continuing a long-running streak of good weather during the Melt.

Kyle Bauman, a Cortez willow-weaving artist who oversaw the Man’s construction, said the fire was a significant event for him.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever burned anything,” he said.

He said he would be open to building a bigger sculpture next year.

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