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The Homecoming Parade That Almost Didn’t Happen Reminds A Community What It’s Like To Celebrate Together

The Montezuma-Cortez High School Homecoming parade was almost cancelled this year...again. But the community came together to make it happen after all. And with so much controversy and division in society these days, homecoming was a reminder of how important it is, both for students and the community, to come together.

As the Montezuma-Cortez High School Homecoming parade moved along Montezuma Avenue last weekend in Cortez, it was a pretty darn impressive procession. We’re talking trucks, cars, and...horses!

Throngs of MCHS students waved from truck beds, car windows, and yes, from on horseback too. Even the Cortez fire dept joined in.

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Lucas Brady Woods
The homecoming parade even included horses!

And as per this year’s homecoming theme which was Out Of This World - the parade was also full of aliens, Men In Black and Star Trek characters. But they were also decked out in MCHS orange and white, of course.

But the celebration wasn’t just meaningful for the highschool students in the parade. Parade-goers of all ages lined Montezuma Avenue to watch.

Take Mikayla Burnison:

“I like that there’s fire trucks in it.”

The fire trucks were definitely a favorite among some of the youngest audience members. But some of them had other priorities. When asked why the homecoming parade is important, Dustin Herman said:

“Um, like, for football.”

He’s five.

And for parents and other community members, like Michael Messner, it was an important opportunity to come together.

“It pleases everyone,” said Messner. “And everyone’s having a good time and enjoying themselves.”

Then we have high school theater teacher, and parent, Nicholas Sandner. He said this year’s homecoming parade was especially significant.

“It’s super exciting to be able to come back and do a homecoming parade and especially because it almost got cancelled this week,” said Sandner. “The fact that everybody banded together to make it happen was really exciting.”

The original parade date was cancelled because of a shooting at a home adjacent to Kemper Elementary School in Cortez. All students were evacuated safely from the school, and classes resumed normally the next day. And that incident follows the cancellation of last year’s homecoming because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That and so many other school events.

So yeah, this year’s festivities meant a lot to the community, but it probably meant even more to the students. MCHS Student Body President Avery Wright was in the parade, waving from the back of a pickup with other volleyball players. She says for the students, it wasn’t just about the parade.

The homecoming football game, for example, was also a bigger hit than usual.

“The football game was huge,” says Wright. “I don't think I've ever seen so many people attend one of our football games before.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Wright also says the homecoming dance sold out their maximum capacity of tickets.

“There were tickets being sold on Craigslist for like $100 or $200,” she says. “We've never had anything like that, and the dance was packed.”

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Lucas Brady Woods
Montezuma-Cortez High School Student Body President Avery Wright at the homecoming parade.

Clearly the high school students have been itching for social interaction. Which is understandable - the last few years haven’t been easy for high school students. Between remote classes, repeated quarantines and actual COVID-19 infections among the student body, they’ve been through a lot.

Student Body President Wright says that, like the larger community, the student community has experienced division too. For example, over max mandates.

“I know people have felt strongly about wearing masks,” she says. “I know othersare the opposite, like against that. So we're seeing a little bit of that division in our high school.”

The Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 School District has experienced controversy over the last few months. The school board, along with input community members, have debated critical race theory and mask mandates. And earlier this week, teachers pleaded with the board to address critical staff shortages in the district.

Wright says students are aware of some of the issues going on.

“Like the second or third week of school, I had a sub in my first teacher-aid class,” she says. “And she was the same sub for my English class. So I know we've had a substitute shortage.”

She also thinks the student body should be included more in the debates about issues that affect them.

“As a student government, and like the whole student body, I think we would just honestly like to be heard more,” she says. “As a student government, we plan homecoming and things like that. But we never really help with things around our school, such as talking about the mask mandate.”

But at the end of the day, homecoming is about bringing people together. And Wright says it’s obvious from this year’s turnout that students, and the community, are eager to celebrate together again.

Lucas is the News Director and host of NPR's Morning Edition for KSJD Community Radio. His work focuses on serving the public of the Four Corners with responsible, factual reporting.
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