AZTEC — A local cancer-fighting group will hold a Western-themed benefit tonight.

Organized by the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, the ho-down and potluck aims to "Give Cancer the Boot." The free, family-friendly event will be held at the Senior-Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Prizes for best crock-pot dish and best-dressed cowboy and cowgirl will be awarded. Local country-rock band "Off the Interstate" will perform.

Donning a ten-gallon hat and sporting spurs will ensure a steady supply of dance partners, said Patty Carpenter, Relay for Life event coordinator.

"The ho-down is our kick-off event for the year," said Carpenter, a 12-year survivor of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. "We invite all people, young and old, to bring their crock pots and cowboy boots and have a great time."

Though the evening is free, Carpenter said donations will be accepted to help fund the group's biggest event of the year, the Relay for Life "night of hope" in Riverside Park, in July.

"We will be up all night, fighting the fight," she said. "The popular summer benefit will include opening ceremonies, a survivor walk, a luminaria ceremony to remember those lost to the disease, and plenty of games and live music."

The American Cancer Society is celebrating its 100th year and March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Cheryl Schou, the society's community relationship manager for San Juan and La Plata counties, says the biggest gains in research have been in discovering chemotherapy-free treatments.


She also emphasizes the importance of early screening. According to the Cancer Society website, an estimated 50,830 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected to occur in 2013, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer deaths.

"Aztec is an interesting and very independent community," Schou said. "Local folks like Jim Crowley and Norm Tucker (who are both successfully battling cancer without chemotherapy) show us how much progress we've made in fighting cancer with more effective and less-invasive treatment."

For more information on tonight's event, call Patty Carpenter at 505-436-9108 or contact the Aztec Senior-Community Center, 101 S. Park St, at 505-334-7617.

James Fenton can be reached at; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.