The Rico Fourth of July celebration again lived up to its legendary reputation, providing a balance of family entertainment and Wild West craziness.
The mountain town of 200 year-round residents grows nearly tenfold every year for the annual summer party. By 11 a.m., they were lined up along Colorado Highway 145 to enjoy a patriotic and creative parade under sunny skies.
Beaming kids threw candy from the top of fire trucks, then gleefully sprayed the crowd with hoses.
A float with prisoners in the “Rico Jail” escaped then chucked water balloons at bystanders, causing pandemonium and much laughter from adults and children.
An artist painted the Statue of Liberty on one float. On another, the Four Corners Community Band played classic tunes.
Parade Marshals Joe and Rachel Kreutzer were happy to see the town in such high spirits.
“I love to see all the flags and people standing at attention singing the national anthem,” said Joe Kreutzer, a Navy veteran who served from 1947-1955.
“This year, it looks like a bigger crowd. The Navajo tacos are really good too.”
The couple come every year to Rico to celebrate the Fourth, and Rachel Kreutzer’s family has roots going back to Rico’s mining days.
“My grandmother Allie F. Day was an artist and hard-rock miner who worked the Johnny Bull Mine in the late 1800s,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be here and see old friends.”
At the craft fair in the Rico elementary, shoppers browsed custom wood-work, jewelry, clothing and lamps made with agates from Colorado and Brazil.
“Rico on the Fourth is a family tradition for us,” said shopper Stephanie Fletcher, of Louisiana.
“I remember being in the parade when I was little riding in my dad’s jeep. I think this is my 20th year! I love it for the beauty, friendly crowd and great camping.”
Later on, she plans to hike her favorite trails to Navajo and Hope lakes.
After the parade, people were content to watch traffic while sitting in lawn chairs and visiting. The Colorado State Patrol closed the highway for the parade.
“Today, we put our differences aside and celebrate our country and our freedom,” said Marylin Reed, of Dolores.
“There is no debating: We live in a great country.”
Then the crowd shifted to the Enterprise Grill to watch or participate in a Jenga competition, watermelon-eating contest, and log-splitting contest.
New Enterprise owner Brandy Randall looked with satisfaction at the crowd having fun on outdoor picnic tables. “We wanted to hold events and participate in the community. It is going great!” she said. The crowd backed up as eight women and 10 men went head-to-head in a timed log-splitting contest.
Competitors chose logs at random, then had to chop them into four pieces and carry them across a finish line. Later on, winners and losers shared pitchers of beers and ate hamburgers, fueling up for an evening of live music and fireworks shot off above the mountains.
“The energy in this town is amazing. I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Debbie Valerio, who recently took over management of the Motherload Liquor, 5 N. Glasgow Ave., in Rico.
“The parade gets better and better every year, and the fireworks are always excellent.”