Hundreds of people gathered in Rico on Wednesday for the traditional July Fourth parade, and to eat Navajo tacos and listen to the Four Corners Community Band.
Rico residents and visitors honored Parade Marshall Allene Winkfield Pera, 103, who grew up in Rico in the 1920s and whose grandfather was the town mayor in 1871.
“It’s nice to be back. I climbed these mountains, swam in the river, played baseball here,” said Pera, who now lives in Durango. “Rico is close to my heart.”
Sharp and mobile, Pera enjoyed the attention and shared stories, pointing to a sign about her on the Marshall convertible and asking, “Why do they have to put my age on there!”
Twenty-two family members accompanied her for the event, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Our family is part of a long history here, and we’re so proud she is leading the parade,” said her daughter Donna Burr.
Kids swarmed Glasgow Avenue for candy thrown from Rico fire department trucks, and later sold snow cones on street stands. The Rico Ramblers picked bluegrass tunes from a truck, and a group of energetic, costumed teenagers in a Mystery Machine played out slapstick Scooby-Doo scenarios to the cheers of the crowd.
“It’s nice to see so much activity,” said Town Manager Kari Distefano. “The Fourth of July is a real economic boost for our businesses.”
People came from Arizona, California, Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Towaoc to escape the heat and get in the Independence Day mood.
“We went for a drive, saw all the fun and stopped to enjoy it and look at the shops,” said Lori Wells, of Towaoc. “It is so beautiful up here.”
“We’ve been coming here for the Fourth of July the last 40 years,” said Chris Quintana, of Dolores, who sat on the shady side of the street to watch the parade with his wife, Mattie. “I worked as a laborer for the railroad when it came through here. The parade is always interesting.”
Local art was sold at the elementary school, and at a pop-up art show featuring 21 Rico artists, including 10 youths.
“Small town, big talent,” said ceramic artist Laurie Adams. “I’ve made quite a few sales. The show has a lot of variety. Look at the crowd in here!”
Artists filled the elementary school, and at a pop-up show on Glasgow Street.
Metal sculptor Mike Lesen showed off “Many Eyes,” a Kachina-inspired sculpture made from salvaged radiator from the old courthouse and a flywheel from a 1937 Buick from Dove Creek.
“I’ve had a lot of interest, and artists love that. We’re quite the art town,” he says.
The Rico Fire Station filled up with people socializing and enjoying cheeseburgers, Navajo tacos and beverages. Outside, the Four Corners Community band provided patriotic music.
Relatives of Winkfield Pera, who was born in Nucla in 1915, shared some of her fondest memories of Rico. The mining industry was bustling in the 1920s, and there was an aerial tram running down the middle of Mantz Street.
The train going through Rico was loaded with hobos and men looking for work during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Pera said she remembers taking the Galloping Goose to go to dances in Stoner and Dolores. Movie houses in Rico showed silent movies then, and a local woman usually played piano during various scenes. She played fast during the exciting scenes and slow for the sad scenes.
There was always lots of snow in the winter, and the house was often cold when the family could not afford to buy coal.
After the reminiscing, revelers wandered down the street to the Enterprise Bar and Grill to listen to music and compete in the wood-splitting contest, while others played a giant game of Jenga.
Because of the fire danger, the fireworks show was canceled this year in Rico and replaced with a light parade put on by kids in the evening.
Clouds billowed up above the peaks, hiding the smoke from the nearby Burro and 416 fires.
“We thought there might be smoke, but it is a clear, beautiful day,” said Bruce Harrison, of Mancos, who relaxed on the lawn with his dogs. “Rico always really gets into the July Fourth celebration and does it up right year to year.”