Cortez residents crowded along Montezuma Avenue Saturday afternoon for the annual Veterans Day parade.
The procession began at 1 p.m. near the North Chestnut Street intersection, with several local honor guards and veterans groups leading the way with rows of flags.
Organizer Rick Torres said more than 20 organizations signed up to participate this year, including newcomers like Cub Scout Pack 225 and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s mounted patrol, along with regular participants like the Montezuma-Cortez High School band, Blue Star Mothers and the Ute Mountain Color Guard.
Parade participants rode ATVs, trucks, armored cars, trailers and many other vehicles, but horses led the way. Mounted patrol deputy Don Brown and his horse, Rebel, had appeared in the Escalante Days and Dolores homecoming parades earlier this year, and Brown said each parade has been a good experience. But the mounted patrol hadn’t formed yet for last year’s Veterans Day parade, so this was their first time celebrating the holiday in Cortez.
“I’m proud to be able to support our veterans,” Brown said.
He rode alongside deputy Ed Oxley, as well as members of the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Posse and a group of 4-H Club students.
Several Montezuma County veterans groups and assisted living facilities gave local veterans a ride in their vehicles for the parade. Many spectators waved American flags or saluted as they went by.
The Montezuma-Cortez High School and Cortez Middle School marching bands provided a patriotic soundtrack for the procession. Because it was a Saturday, fewer students came to watch the parade than in previous years, and high school band director Katie Zdanowski said she was short a few musicians because they had a drama performance later in the day. But the school still had about 50 musicians playing the Marines’ Hymn near the front of the procession.
This was Zdanowski’s first year directing the high school band in the Veterans Day parade, and she said she hoped it would not be her last.
“I think this is really important for this community and for these people,” she said. “It’s such a small thing for us to do, compared to the big things that our veterans do.”
Other young people in the parade included Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Miss Ute Mountain royalty, several of whom handed out candy to children along the road.
A contingent of vintage cars, including an old Cortez Volunteer Fire Department engine, brought up the rear of the parade.
Earlier in the day, the Cortez American Legion, the Cortez Elks Lodge and Southwest Memorial Hospital offered free meals for veterans and their families. Dolores Schools hosted their annual Veterans Day program on Friday morning.