Log In

Reset Password

Cortez Fourth of July provides summer celebration, fireworks

The parks were full if people enjoying the Fourth of July holiday and waiting for the fireworks to start. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
Fireworks show includes more than 700 colorful explosions

A pleasant summer day greeted thousands of people at Cortez parks as they enjoyed Fourth of July festivities and anticipated a memorable fireworks show.

A relaxed vibe filled Parque de Vida and Centennial Parks as people from the region played games, lounged on the lawn, socialized and barbecued.

“We love that it is so family friendly; you can just have fun and everyone feels welcome,” said Chantilly Marquez of Cortez.

She has been celebrated the Independence Day holiday in Cortez for all her 35 years.

On the menu was brisket and smoked pulled pork, but before dinner, the family corn hole tournament with the Marquez, Smith and Sanchez families got underway.

“It gets pretty competitive, a family tradition,” Marquez said with a laugh.

Volleyball nets sprang up across both parks and were played with lots of laughter. Footballs and Frisbees soared overhead, as the smell of barbecue wafted through the air.

Fireworks light up Parque de Vida as the Fourth of July show begins. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)

The Four Corners Community band performed at the Centennial Park Pavilion.

Keith Steele and his mom, Frieda, settled in to enjoy the patriotic music.

Steele’s wife, Karen, is the new director of the band. He said the family moved to Cortez nine months ago from the Phoenix area after Karen retired as a music schoolteacher.

“It is has been our dream to move to Cortez,” Steele said. “We come up here to camp a lot and love the small town atmosphere. It is so nice to be away from the 120-degree heat.”

Eric Hendrickson plays the baritone sax in the band, and was glad to perform in front of the growing crowd.

“Community bands are a big part of small town America,” he said. “We enjoy the camaraderie between fellow band members and love making music together. I hope that inspires people to join us!”

The Four Corners Community band plays patriotic numbers during the Fourth of July celebration at Centennial Park. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Revelers arrived from all over. Including the Quinn family from Chinle, Arizona, and Shae Washburn from Farmington.

“We’re celebrating with friends and family, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers,” she said. “We come up here because the fireworks show in Cortez is the best in the area.”

Cortez police officers rode around on bikes, and Cortez Fire Protection District patrolled the park in an ATV. A firefighter reported no problems.

The fire department puts on the fireworks show. This year, they moved the launch site to allow for more park viewing space.

A series of computerized launch tubes shoot off the fireworks, explained Battalion Chief Charlie Borden. The timing, type and sequence is programmed and operated from a master control board.

“It’s all programmed into the system, planning has been going on for weeks,” he said.

The show includes 700 aerial fireworks, 25 ground cakes, and 15 ground munitions, he said, and cost about $10,000.

Soren Piotrowski gets in the spirit for the Fourth of July holiday. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)

Funding for the fireworks show is donated by local businesses, and this year 63 businesses chipped in, Borden said.

Setting off fireworks requires specialized training.

Firefighters Gabe Rogers and Brent Kreun are running the show, and attended the Western Pyrotechnics Association school in Nevada to learn the trade and become certified.

“Everyone is on duty tonight, including our wildland fire crew,” Borden said.

During the fireworks show, patrols of the surrounding area will be done to watch for any drifting embers. Twenty firefighters from Cortez were on the scene along with six fire trucks. The Ute Mountain Fire Department also had staff and trucks stationed at the park.

The celebratory scene was classic Americana diversity with radios blasting country music, rock, hip-hop, reggae and rap. American flags were everywhere and T-shirts were worn that simply read “Freedom.”

United States pride, independence and freedom was not far from people’s mind. They said communities get a renewed sense of fellowship during patriotic celebrations.

Steele kept in mind veterans who served and sacrificed “so we can enjoy our freedoms today.”

Added Marquez: “The world’s is a bit in shambles. The Fourth of July for me means coming together as a country, being kind to each other and enjoying where we live. Not everyone in the world has it as good as we do.”