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Montezuma Land Conservancy raises glass for a cause

Harvest Beer Festival benefits Montezuma Land Conservancy

Hundreds of people gathered in Parque de Vida on Saturday for craft brews, live music and the Montezuma Land Conservancy.

The 19th annual Harvest Beer Festival in Cortez featured about a dozen vendors from breweries in Cortez, Dolores, Durango and as far as Farmington and Bayfield. Local organizations like the Piñon Project and FireWise of Southwest Colorado, as well as the Cortez Recreation Center, also handed out information about their projects at booths near the amphitheater, where local bands such as The Lindells and Afrobeatniks played throughout the evening. Marianne Mate, director of philanthropy and special events for the Land Conservancy, said the group relies on funds raised at the beer festival for about 20 percent of its operating budget.

Some of the breweries represented were regulars at the festival, like Dolores River Brewery, which Mate said has been there since the beginning. Others were newer, like WildEdge Brewing Collective, which opened in Cortez in April. But its founder, Tucker Robinson, said he’s supported the cause for much longer than that.

“I was on the Land Conservancy board for a long time, so I helped put this event on for years,” he said. “We’re stoked to be here pouring our own beer this year.”

Shawn Larson, of the Hotchkiss-based Big B’s Hard Cider, has come to the festival for about three years. He said it’s one of his favorite alcohol-themed events.

“Some events are like drunk fests, and this one is for charity,” he said. “We care about apples, and they do a lot of work with apples.”

Mate said she hopes to have more hard cider vendors next year, including some new Montezuma County companies like the Mancos-based Outlier Sellers.

Although the focus of the event was on adult beverages, the festival had some attractions for kids as well. Land Conservancy volunteers offered face painting and lawn games, and the music stayed family friendly. One tent also housed more than 100 items donated by local businesses for the Super Silent Auction, which also benefited the Montezuma Land Conservancy.

Mate estimated the event takes about 40 volunteers to organize, and she started courting vendors for it in February.

“It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of time to pull off, but this is our only major fundraising event,” she said.

The Land Conservancy is a not-for-profit land trust dedicated to protecting the landscape from development. It has conserved about 44,000 acres of land in the Montezuma County area, most of it on working farms and ranches. The group recently acquired the first property of its own, on Fozzie’s Farm in Lewis. Conservancy member Jack Burk said the plan is to turn that farm into a place to teach young people about conservation and farming.

“Our ultimate goal of conserving land is going to not be met sometime, if the people who are supporting us now all die, and the kids are not engaged in outdoor things,” he said.

Montezuma Land Conservancy is teaming up with several other local organizations to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that would benefit the farm. But Mate said the Harvest Beer Festival money will also help with upcoming projects.

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