AZTEC — People of all ages gathered in Minium Park on Saturday to celebrate Aztec's new Old Soreheads and this year's pioneers.

Aztec has held a Founders' Day celebration since 1984. Each year, a different aspect of the community is the focus. This year's focus was the parks, particularly Aztec Ruins National Monument.

To exemplify the theme, Aztec Museum board member Jacob Chavez portrayed Earl Morris, one of the first excavators of Aztec Ruins and the person who dug up the Great Kiva.

Following the morning's parade, a small crowd gathered in Minium Park. Six people wore paper bags over their heads. Those six people would later be announced as the new Old Soreheads -- a distinction given to outstanding volunteers and residents of the Aztec community.

Old Soreheads are elected by means of collection cans with their names on them. The candidate whose cans receive the most money are given the title Old Sorehead.

The $1,000 collected during the election was donated to two nonprofits, Aztec Cub Scouts Troop 325 and Mosaic Academy.

 

The paper bags, decorated by Nick Garcia, gave hints about the new soreheads.

The six new Old Soreheads removed the paper bags at the same time revealing Christine Pina, Jeff Symonds, Dean Woodruff, Jerry Blake, Amanda Hawks and Sandra Lanier. Blake, an Aztec police officer, missed the ceremony, so a proxy stood in for him.

Lanier, who owns Finish Line Graphics, had her bag decorated with stars.

"That was what reminded me of graphics," Garcia said.

Another bag was decorated with dollar signs for Woodruff, who is a cashier, and the one for Hawks, who runs Aztec Floral Design and Gifts, bore flowers.

Pina spends her time volunteering at the Aztec Senior Center. She said being an Old Sorehead is like every other day for her.

From left, Dean Woodruff, Santiago Sandoval standing in for Jerry Blake, Amanda Hawks and Sandra Lanier wear paper bags over their heads during the
From left, Dean Woodruff, Santiago Sandoval standing in for Jerry Blake, Amanda Hawks and Sandra Lanier wear paper bags over their heads during the Soreheads unveiling ceremony as part of the Aztec Museum Founders' Day celebration on Saturday in Aztec. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

"I love Aztec and all the people in it," she said.

 

After the unveiling of the Old Soreheads, this year's pioneers -- Chuck Buck and John Austin -- were honored. Both pioneers worked for the National Park Service. Before retiring, Buck was at Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. Austin worked at both Aztec Ruins and Chaco Canyon when he wasn't teaching history classes at Aztec High School and San Juan College.

Buck first became interested in the National Park Service as a children when camping with his family. He said the family either went to U.S. Forest Service or National Park campgrounds.

"That's how I learned to appreciate preserves," Buck said.

Austin had a much different induction into the park service. He moved to Aztec from Roswell to get closer to skiing locations.

"I just liked the atmosphere all around," Austin said.

In his second year in Aztec, Austin talked with the superintendant of Aztec Ruins and Chaco Canyon, who asked him to work at Chaco Canyon as a ranger over the summer.

When school resumed, Austin decided to keep working for the park service on the weekends at Aztec Ruins.

"You meet people from all different places of the world," Austin said.

Austin said he thinks the Four Corners area is one of the most interesting places.

"I feel very fortunate that I was able to live in an area where you have so many different cultures and such rich history," Austin said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.