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Parade lights up (and warms up) downtown Cortez

Below-freezing temperatures didn’t stop crowds of Montezuma County residents from lining Main Street for the annual Parade of Lights on Saturday.

More than 50 floats participated in this year’s parade, fewer than in some past years, but enough to make the procession last nearly an hour. Some spectators started setting up folding chairs along Main Street, or turning their cars into viewing galleries, two hours early. Several businesses along Main Street responded by handing out cookies and hot drinks from the sidewalk or inviting people inside to get warm.

For many people, the night began at 5 p.m. with a Christmas carol performance by the Montezuma-Cortez High School choir at the Cortez Cultural Center, which was followed by a tree lighting in the courtyard outside.

But the lights began parading at 6 p.m., starting with grand marshals The 40s Bunch, a local historical preservation society, riding in an appropriately vintage car, a 1951 Hudson Hornet that bore its original paint. It was driven by owner Darren Upton, a relative of a member of the 40s Bunch, and carried Lavina Saunders, Walt and Bobby Jo Ertel, and Philip and Vivienne Kenyon.

“It was a great ride,” said Vivienne Kenyon, “and we were honored to be part of a parade to be remembered.”

This year’s parade was all about remembering. Themed “Preserving Treasured Memories of Christmas Past,” the parade featured floats decked out in nostalgic, traditional holiday décor. A few Santa’s workshops, including one that produced a fountain of sparks from a welding machine, made their appearance, as well as several gingerbread houses and live Christmas trees. The Southwest Open School float, which won second place in the nonprofit category, boasted a tepee made of Christmas lights.

The Cortez chapter of Future Farmers of America, which won second place last year in the “Other” category, made it to first place this year with an elaborate float on which about 15 FFA students acted out an old-fashioned Christmas party.

“We’ve got people opening gifts over there, Grandma crocheting in the corner, and then they’re going to be chopping the Christmas tree right there on the float,” supervisor Ed Rice said, adding that the entire chapter pitched in to put the float together.

Other floats drew a lot of attention, even though they didn’t quite fit the theme. Mesa Verde Aquatics Club won first place in the “Nonprofit” category after the club’s energetic T. rex characters got loud cheers from the crowd.

Michelle Morris, a volunteer affiliate of the Four Corners Board of Realtors, said she thought the parade went very smoothly.

“We didn’t get any snow, the weather didn’t go bad,” she said. “The judges had a really great time, and I think everyone else did too.”

Each of the first-, second- and third-place winners received cash prizes, sponsored by the Board of Realtors.

In the “Commercial” category, Blue Moon Painting won first place, followed by Stormy’s ATC Gymnastics in second place and Diesel Technology in third.In the “Nonprofit” category, Mesa Verde Aquatics Club won first place, followed by the Southwest Open School Native Indian Culture Club in second place and Blue Star Moms in third.In the “Other” category, the Cortez Future Farmers of America won first place, followed by the Cortez Middle School Band in second place and Miniz N More in third.

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