It’s July now, which means Mancos Days is just around the corner – and the Montezuma County VFW Auxiliary No. 5231 has officially selected Jeanne Smith as this year’s Mancos Days queen.
Mancos Days is an annual tradition featuring a parade, softball and volleyball tournaments, a car show, vendors and more. Each year, the VFW Auxiliary selects one local woman to serve as the Mancos Days queen and honors her with a Queen’s Tea and horse-and-buggy ride at the Mancos Days Parade.
“It was quite an honor to be chosen,” Smith told The Journal.
This year, Mancos Days will run July 29-30, marking the 62nd anniversary of the celebration.
The Mancos Days queen has been part of the festivities since the first selection in 1961. Along with choosing a queen, VFW Auxiliary members also make a quilt to be auctioned off during Mancos Days, with proceeds supporting youth programs in the VFW Auxiliary such as the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen speech contests.
The queen must have lived in Mancos for at least 50 years and contributed to the community in some way, according to Queenie Barz, Mancos Days Queen chairman and mayor of Mancos. The Auxiliary often seeks to choose a queen with a family member who has served in the military, but that is not a requirement.
Smith meets all of this criteria, Barz said.
“She’s just a big part of Mancos,” Barz said.
Smith comes from a line of Mancos Days royalty – and Mancos dwellers, as her great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather helped settle Mancos. Her great-grandmother Celia Jensen was chosen as queen in 1964 and her mother, Wanda Goode, in 2012.
Smith was born in Cortez, but had a nomadic childhood because of her father’s job as a jockey-turned-racehorse trainer. Growing up, she spent time in Mancos, Littleton, Slickrock, Yuma, and Los Angeles.
“But Mancos was always our hometown,” she said.
Smith had two sons by her first marriage and later, after marrying her middle school sweetheart Jack Smith in 1970, brought their family total up seven, as he had two children already and their daughter Elecia was then born. They were a busy family, constantly racing to different 4-H events, school athletics, and dance classes, among other activities, she said. Snowmobiling and four-wheeling were family favorites, and they would often have picnics while cutting their winter’s supply of firewood.
She worked for the San Juan National Forest for 28 years, in addition to working at the Western Excelsior plant in Mancos for a few years, she said.
Smith has been instrumental in crafting and designing the Mancos Days Queen’s Quilt since 2012, the year her mother was selected as queen. The quilt is made by local VFW Auxiliary members, along with Smith and Ann Neely, and honors all past Mancos Days queens. Each square features a doll that represents one queen: The quilters try to use the actual material from that queen’s dress, although some of the earlier dresses don’t have any material left.
It has been a running joke between Smith and other quilters that if she were ever selected as queen, she would have to make her own quilt.
“Here she is making her quilt!” Barz said.
Mancos Days has been an important event for Smith for many years not just because of the quilt-making tradition, though. Her family hosts a potluck barbeque on the Saturday of Mancos Days, sometimes with over 100 people attending. Last year, she and Jack celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary during the barbeque.
“We’ve got a lot of family coming, so we’re excited,” she said. “And we’re going to have the barbeque again this year, so we’re busy!”
Quilt raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5, and are available for purchase from any Auxiliary member and at the Dolores State Bank, where the quilt will be on display. The winning ticket will be drawn on July 30 at 1 p.m. at Boyle Park.
Members of the public are invited to join the Auxiliary in honoring Smith and previous years’ queens at the Queen’s Tea, which will take place on Friday, July 29 at 1 p.m. at the Mancos Community Center. Smith’s horse-and-buggy ride through town will happen at the Mancos Days Parade on Saturday, July 30.