The 29th annual Parade of Lights put on a spectacular display of lights, live music and holiday cheer Saturday night on Main Street in Cortez.
The fresh snow and winter chill added to the excitement as 55 colorful, festive floats passed by hundreds of bundled up spectators lining the street. But it wasn’t just for fun, the floats competed for cash prizes in three categories.
The Four Corners Board of Realtors, which puts on the event, invited five judges: Scott Magnus of Ute Mountain Post 75 American Legion, Rick Torres of Montezuma County Veteran Services, Terry Whelan of the Kiwanis Club of Mesa Verde, Eric Wilson of the Piñon Project and Tom Seymour of the Dolores Rotary Club.
In the nonprofit category, Cub Scout Pack 225 took first place, Southwest Chapter 2 Blue Star Moms took second, and Arriola Bible Church took third. In the commercial category, Sunglass Cortez was declared the winner, Dolores State Bank came in second, and Stormy’s ATC Gymnastics placed third. In the “Other” category, Cortez FFA came out on top, Pueblo Community College Southwest took second place, and Crossroads Christian Fellowship came in third.
Cub Scout Pack 225 had a classic Western theme for its float with cactus and tumbleweeds surrounding a mock-up of a jail. Cub Scouts dressed up in decorated cardboard cow costumes led the way.
This is the second year the Cub Scouts participated, and they are “better than last year with more lights!” said Den Leader Shalun Maloney. “The kids are so excited.”
The Crossroads Christian Fellowship float featured a baby Jesus in a manger wrapped up in a giant present with a star shining down from above.
“Jesus is on display, and he is the gift from God,” said float organizer Sarah Overton. “We are participating to share the message of salvation to the community. I love how many people get involved to usher in the season.”
During the parade, Overton sang songs of faith while accompanied by a guitar player.
The Dolores State Bank float featured a wintry scene of creative, handmade snowmen made from concrete and yarn along with Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting back in lounge chairs. Loan processor Heather Veach said they had been working on the float since noon.
“We’re the best bank in town, man. We gotta represent,” Veach said.
The Pueblo Community College Southwest float was a joint effort between the school’s cosmetology, automotive and EMS programs. Cosmetology instructor Brenda Knapp said it took a lot of communication between the programs, which operate on different schedules.
Cosmetology student Taylor Cook, along with five others, were dressed in reindeer onesies. They held onto a rope of red lights and “pulled” an ambulance with Santa Claus himself seated on top.
The Montezuma-Cortez School District Bus Barn float featured a covered wagon with scenes of the desert, cactus and snow-covered mountains on the side, explained float builders William Fish and Zach Higgins, both 11.
“It was fun designing it and using what we had to build it,” Fish said. Higgins added that being part of it was a way to “work together on a creative project.”
Lloyd Rose lit up his 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 hardtop convertible with stylish lights and added a decorated tumbleweed on the back.
“My wife and daughter convinced me to enter this year,” he said. “The parade gets bigger and bigger every year. We love it.”
Portable toilet company Le Pew participated for the first time after employee Mark Brunk suggested it.
Le Pew’s float featured blow-up skunks, a penguin, a decorated tree with presents, a portable pottie and Christmas music blasting from a sound system Brunk rigged up.
“Our joke is ‘Ho, Ho, Ho, even Santa has to go!’” Brunk said. “It’s great for advertising and for getting involved in a traditional event.”
The mine rescue team from GCC Energy played heavy metal Christmas tunes as they walked down Main Street decked out in full working gear, including headlamps and four-hour rebreathers. Captain Jake Wood said they want to let people know that mine workers are still out there.
The event is beloved among Cortez residents but also attracts folks from out of state.
Latisha John brought her kids from Montezuma Creek, Utah. She said this was their second trip to see the parade, and all the kids like seeing all the lights.
“We’re getting the winter and Christmas spirit,” John said.
Cortez resident Fawn Clark said her family likes the lights and creativity. She’s been coming for years, but this was the first Parade of Lights for her daughter, Georgia, who is 1 year old.
“It definitely brings everybody out,” Clark said.