The second annual Mancos Valley River Film Festival drew a crowd by spotlighting adventurers from around the globe and from Montezuma County’s backyard.
Last year, Mancos Valley Resources and Alpacka Raft started the event to highlight short documentaries about pack rafting and other river sports, while raising money for people affected by the Western Excelsior plant fire. This year, organizers expanded it to two nights focused on “bikes and boats” and pledged to give the proceeds to MVR and the Mancos Trails Group. The festival lineup included 12 short films including “Our Wild,” a fly-fishing documentary by Durango filmmaker Ben Kraushaar.
The festival kicked off Friday with a free presentation by Durango teacher and activist Ashley Carruth on her bike and raft expedition through the Bears Ears National Monument this year. More than 100 people crowded into Outlier Cellars cidery to hear Carruth’s story, which she said changed her perspective on the monument and on wilderness hiking.
“This trip enabled me to connect more to myself, to connect to place and the environment, to connect to community, to connect to the past and to connect to the future,” she said.
She described the friendships she made and strengthened on the journey, as well as the challenges she faced in places where drought conditions had made water scarce or where the terrain made biking difficult. Her goal in trekking Bears Ears, she said, was to help her students at Animas High School engage with the ongoing controversy over whether the monument should be protected.
Friday is typically the busiest night of the week for Outlier Cellars, but Monica Marty, who regularly brings her Sweetwater Gypsies pizza truck to the cidery, said this Friday’s crowd was the busiest she’d seen.
Festival organizer Sarah Tingey, of Alpacka Raft, said she hoped adding a free first night to the festival would encourage people to participate.
“(It’s a way) to provide something fun for people locally, so they can have a way to participate in the film festival even if they’re, perhaps, not able to come Saturday night,” she said.
The main event on Saturday started just as the Grand Summer Nights artist gathering on Grand Avenue was winding down, with a concert by the Afrobeatniks. Attendees started crowding into the upper floor of the Mancos Opera House at 6 p.m. to bid on a silent auction and pick their seats for the films, which started about 7:30 p.m.
Entrance was free for all firefighters, in an attempt to honor those fighting the nearby 416 and Burro fires.
Organizer Lizzy Scully said her goal in hosting Carruth and the films was to encourage Mancos residents to be adventurous. She said one of her favorite documentaries in the lineup was “From the Doorstep,” a documentary on urban biking and rafting that made its debut at the festival. Films like these, she said, are designed to inspire people to do more biking and paddling.
“The theme for this year is ‘Bikes and Boats,’ so we’re really saying, ‘Get out there!’” she said. “Human-powered travel is so liberating.”
Half the proceeds from the festival went to support MVR, which is the fiscal agent for several nonprofits in the Mancos Valley, and the other half went to the Mancos Trails Group, which works to maintain local hiking trails and promote good trail etiquette.
Chairman Robert Meyer said the group’s biggest project this year is rehabilitating The Mancos Spur, a trail that starts in Mancos State Park and connects with the Colorado Trail. The trail has fallen into disuse, he said, and the Trails Group hopes to make it popular again by putting up new signs to guide hikers along it.
Scully said Tuesday in an email that about 300 people attended the two-day festival. It raised about $11,000, which Scully said was enough to fully fund the Trails Group’s signage project while also giving money to MVR.