When I was growing up, the promotional video for my hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, featured a bunch of guys sporting Magnum P.I. mustaches sitting in a hot tub singing, “Steamboat, Steamboat, I like it here.” Though the video has been updated several times since then, I still agree with the lyrics.
Steamboat recently celebrated its 100th Winter Carnival, and I attended along with my family and a number of friends from high school. Here are a few of the reasons why it was so much fun.
One: carnival buttons, which get you into all the weekend events and are often seen pinned to ski hats, still cost only $10. I bought mine off a woman on the bus who had an extra.
Two: the carnival is a liability nightmare. Put skis on small children, give them a rope to hold, tie the other end of the rope to a horse and tell the rider to go as fast as possible down a street covered in a couple feet of snow. Just for fun, add a jump in the middle. Or start with a 50 meter ski jump. Wait until dark. Add a flaming hoop and have people jump through it. Just for fun, let one of them pull a toboggan that is on fire.
Three: though the population of the town has more than doubled since I was a kid (to a whopping 12,000), everyone still puts on four layers of clothing and stands around in the snow for six hours cheering for the kids and the horses. Occasionally a kid lets go of the rope before she crosses the finish line and then has to ski half a block or so on her own. Everyone cheers the loudest for these kids, and every single kid who let go of the rope crossed the finish line even though she knew she wouldn’t win.
Four: nowhere else in the world will you see a rugby team, a refrigerator, and a running gas grill on skis. There was sauerkraut for the hotdogs.
Five: keeping the local ranchers at the center of the festivities as riders and parade participants somehow ties the different parts of the community together in a way that doesn’t happen in many places.
Six: the lighted man. Yes, he is shooting fireworks out of his backpack. Yes, it is the coolest thing ever.
Plan to buy your buttons for the 101st.