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Cortez pumpkin festival benefits Piñon Project

More than 100 participate in costume contest

Cortez families celebrated Halloween early on Saturday with the annual Pumpkin Festival in Montezuma Park.

The festival, which includes an all-ages costume contest and outdoor games, has been a fall tradition for several years, but this year the Piñon Project took a hand in organizing it. In cooperation with the Cortez Retail Enhancement Association, Piñon staff combined the festival with their annual 5K fundraiser to raise more money for their programs helping low-income children and families. A large crowd turned out for the festivities, with about 140 people competing in the costume contest.

Piñon’s executive director, Kellie Willis, said she was pleased with the turnout for the organization’s first year hosting the event. She said the staff plans to organize the festival every year from now on.

“It's always been this annual event, and as you can see, there are tons of people that look forward to it every year,” she said. “Piñon’s board of directors decided to honor the families with carrying on the event every year, making sure there’s a stable home for it.”

She said she hoped to continue growing the event in future years.

About 21 people signed up for the group's second annual 5K Fun Run earlier in the morning, and administrative assistant Kelly Proctor said it was bigger than last year’s race. But the day’s main event was the costume contest. Superheroes, Disney characters and monsters of all descriptions gathered in the park to compete in five age categories and a group costume category. First- and second-place winners went home with Osprey Packs backpacks, but everyone in costume got to go trick-or-treating afterward at participating businesses on Main Street.

One first-place winner, 4-year-old Noah Hobbs, said his family helped him build his robot costume by adding computer parts from a salvage yard. The outfit came complete with flashing lights and an electricity warning on the back.

“(I’m) the kind of robot that saves the world,” he said.

While none of the costumed kids at the festival were called upon to save the world on Saturday, Proctor said their registration fees would go to a good cause. The Project used funds from last year’s Fun Run to pay for its summer lunch program and buy supplies for the Christmas for Kids gift drive. Willis said the group didn’t have a specific fundraising goal this year, but she planned to use the proceeds for similar purposes.

“The focus is on community celebration,” she said.

After trick-or-treating, the festivalgoers played games in Montezuma Park and snacked on refreshments offered by the Piñon Project and its partner businesses.

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