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Funds flow in from Mancos Valley River Film Festival

Mancos film festival raises $10,000 for Excelsior workers
A still photo from the New Zealand film “Waiau-Tau Odyssey,” which made its U.S. debut Saturday at the Mancos Valley River Film Festival.

The Mancos Valley River Film Festival on Saturday raised thousands of dollars to help wash away the aftermath of a fire.

More than 200 people crowded into the Mancos Opera House to see an assortment of short films about exploring rivers and oceans all over the world. Presented by Alpacka Raft and Osprey Packs, along with other local sponsors, the event was designed to help more than 100 workers who lost their jobs when the Western Excelsior Corp. mill burned down in May. Organizers said they raised almost $10,000 from ticket prices, food sales and a silent auction.

The atmosphere in the theater Saturday night was cheerful, if slightly crowded, as a line of festivalgoers filed into the Opera House. Organizer Lizzy Scully, of Alpacka Rafts, later estimated 275 people attended, including about 40 volunteers. Thor Tingey, CEO of Alpacka Raft, said it was a much better turnout than he expected.

“Yesterday, it didn’t seem like a lot (of tickets) had really sold online, but then we kept hearing people, like friends of my dad who live in Ouray, who were like, ‘We’re coming over to the festival,’” Tingey said.

Attendees socialized around Mancos-made food and beverages for about an hour before the films started, and some participated in a silent auction for Alpacka and Osprey products.

Scully helped select the movies for the festival, along with Mancos Valley Resources president Tami Graham. She said they tried to feature a wide variety of river-based true stories. Her company already had a few films highlighting pack rafting, so she sought out movies about river conservation, fly fishing and kayaking.

“We really wanted to do a river film festival ... because we’re a pack-raft company,” Scully said. “But we also wanted to have a wide variety of films to choose from, and the pack-rafting community is not huge.”

The festival included several shorts, some of which had been featured on Alpacka’s website, and two short films on river conservation from nonprofits Rig to Flip and American Rivers. Sam Carter, of Dolores River Boating Advocates, gave a presentation on the history of the Dolores and the importance of conservation. But the highlights of the night were “Waiau-Toa Odyssey,” an award winner at the 2017 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, and “Into Twin Galaxies,” a short documentary about kayaking and kite skiing in Greenland. While both highlighted their sport of choice – mountain biking and pack rafting in “Waiau-Toa’s” case – they also included plenty of beautiful scenery on and off the water.

Scully said she and the other organizers hope to hold another film festival next year, possibly with a biking theme. In the meantime, the money raised from this year’s festival will go to benefit Mancos Valley Resources, Mancos FoodShare and Mancos Pay It Forward, all organizations that help the unemployed and needy in the Mancos area, including those affected by the Western Excelsior fire. More than 20 Montezuma County businesses sponsored the event.

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