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Fire safety advice and meet the community band!

Summer is here, and we realize that our abundant snowfall and wet spring has brought with it both good news and bad.

The good news, of course, is that McPhee is at capacity for the first time in years, ranchers will have plenty of water for their crops, and we’ve all been able to breathe a little easier – at least for a while – with a break in the drought.

The bad news is that all that precipitation has produced a bumper crop of weeds. With hotter days, some of those weeds are beginning to dry and will shortly pose a fire hazard. Cheatgrass, an invasive grass native to Europe, is particularly bad. A fine, delicate annual grass, the seed heads easily attach to clothing, can become embedded in a dog’s paws or ears, and are highly flammable once they begin to dry out.

At a recent presentation, Jay Balfour, chief of the Cortez Fire Protection District, reminded homeowners of the importance of maintaining their property by keeping weeds cut back, especially along fence lines, to reduce the chance of a fire. Cheatgrass particularly can be ignited with a single spark and spreads fast. City crews are working hard to remove or keep weeds mowed on city property, and Code Enforcement officers are out in the community notifying citizens whose weeds need attention. With fire season upon us, it is in everyone’s interest to keep weeds under control. If you have a neighbor who needs help with weed removal, this might be a great time to join hands with others in your neighborhood to offer assistance. Not only will it improve curb appeal, you’ll reduce the chance of a potentially devastating fire.

Summer barbecues also pose a fire hazard around the home. Before firing up the grill, be sure it is in an area clear and free of grasses and cottonwood seeds. The Fire Department has already answered two calls involving fires in which cottonwood seeds provided the ignition. When finished grilling, remember to dispose of barbecue ashes properly: carefully place them in a metal bucket, drench thoroughly with water and allow to set 24 hours before dumping in your garbage can. If you have any questions regarding fire and fire safety, Jay and the Firehouse staff are more than happy to visit with you. They can be reached at (979) 565-3157

Did you know that we have a community band? Well, we do, and on the last Sunday in June, they provided an afternoon of music in CIty Park, underneath the large willow at the southwest corner. Those attending were treated to a number of patriotic tunes – given that the Fourth was coming up – along with a wide range of other musical numbers, including “Wipe-Out” featuring Rodney Ritthaller, former MCHS band director, on the drums. It was a lovely afternoon with the audience enjoying the gift of music shared by talented neighbors in our community.

Mark Allen, the current conductor, is also the founder of the organization. Mark started a community band when he lived in Cottonwood, Arizona in the early 1990s, so when he was hired in Dolores to run the band program in 1999, it was only logical that he would soon propose the idea of a community band in his new community. In December, he posted fliers inviting interested musicians to get in touch with him. The first meeting was held in January 2000, with only three people showing up – three people who promised they would find others who would participate. And they did! The band grew, and Mark continued to serve as conductor until 2003, when he left for a new job in Newcomb, New Mexico. A succession of conductors have led the band over the years, with Mark returning to the area and resuming conducting duties in December 2016.

The band has grown significantly from its early days to its current membership of 30-35 musicians. Between the snowbirds and retirees who travel, performances usually have 22-25 members on hand. Past performances have included Mancos and Escalante days, Fourth of July in Rico, and concerts at all the local nursing homes, as well as Sundays in the Park.

In a recent conversation, Mark shared that they are looking for additional musicians, especially younger players. The band is open to “anyone of any age as long as they can play at a high school level.” Wilma Robinson, one of the original members, recently celebrated her 80th birthday, and the youngest musician is around 15! If you meet the requirement and are interested, contact Mark at (970) 565-9804. For everyone else, plan now to attend the community band’s next performance in City Park set for August 18 at 2 p.m.

Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Council members. Reach her at ksheek@cityofcortez.com or during her office hours from 12:30-1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

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