Steamboat parade runs gamut from brainy beauty queen to Redneck Olympians |

Steamboat parade runs gamut from brainy beauty queen to Redneck Olympians

Bryan Vandenburg places a flag on the Yampa Valley Electric Association float Wednesday afternoon while preparing for this year’s Fourth of July parade down Lincoln Avenue. The parade begins at 10 a.m. Thursday on Lincoln Avenue and will be followed by a long list of events
John F. Russell

Bryan Vandenburg places a flag on the Yampa Valley Electric Association float Wednesday afternoon while preparing for this year’s Fourth of July parade down Lincoln Avenue. The parade begins at 10 a.m. Thursday on Lincoln Avenue and will be followed by a long list of events, including the Pioneer Day Block Party, Ski Jumping Extravaganza, Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series and fireworks.
John F. Russell

Sarah Bazey, crowned Mrs. International 2012 last July, will appear in Steamboat Springs’ Fourth of July Parade on Thursday. Her commitment to advocating for burn victims and their families played a prominent role in her ability to claim her crown.

— The charm of Steamboat’s Fourth of July parade is directly related to its homespun qualities. But it doesn’t hurt a bit to sign up a beauty queen with smarts and a rowdy bunch of Redneck Olympians.

The Keppy Kousins’ Kanoe, an entry in this year’s event on Lincoln Avenue, exemplifies the unabashed funkiness of Steamboat’s Independence Day procession.

Dale and Tamia Keppy, of Coal Valley, Ill., planned with their adult children and four grandchildren to stay up late Wednesday building a human-powered float resembling a canoe floating down the Yampa River. It will be built out of lumber and PVC pipe. A message to the Keppy family: Don’t forget your personal flotation devices.

Fourth of July celebrants are in for a meaningful experience during this year’s parade when Mrs. International 2012 Sarah Bazey makes one of the last two public appearances of her reign perched on the back of a convertible as it rolls down Lincoln Avenue. The Minnesotan, who also has a home in Steamboat, has a life-affirming message to deliver in her work as an advocate for burn victims.

Bazey, a graduate of Harvard Business School, owns a construction products company and was viewing a building site from the air in 1994 when the helicopter she was a passenger in became entangled in power lines.

“When the helicopter crashed (and burst into flames) I was the only person still belted inside,” she said.

She suffered burns over 40 percent of her body and subsequently endured 17 surgeries.

Bazey’s selection as Mrs. International was based 50 percent on her special cause. She is vice president of the board of the Phoenix Society, a nonprofit that provides peer support, education and advocacy to burn victims and people close to them.

“We do a lot of work with family members. They are victims, too,” Bazey said in a telephone interview Tuesday while traveling to Steamboat.

Bazey’s appearance will add meaningful luster to the parade, but the down-home appeal of Steamboat’s summer procession through its main street will continue its reign, too.

As it should, the parade will be led off by the American Legion and VFW color guard in recognition of those who have served to protect the nation’s independence. They will be followed closely by parade marshals Gretchen and Marc Sehler, Mr. and Mrs. Emerald Mountain bike trails. Brian Harvey, who’s been announcing the parade since Jim Bridger wore short pants, will be simulcasting the audio this year on radio stations 94.1 FM and 100.5 FM, so people can listen in even if they’re too busy fishing to attend in person.

The Keppy family will be reliving early family vacations in Steamboat when they propel their “canoe” down Lincoln Avenue on Thursday.

“We just arrived today,” Dale Keppy said Tuesday. “I’ve got a pickup load of two-by-fours and a lot of bright paint. The actual plan is yet to be determined. But my son is an engineer.”

The members of another group, the Local Wannabes, are arriving from cities all across the country.

“We’ve been coming to Steamboat since 1988, and this is our third time entering the parade,” Ken Constable said. “We have a bunch of people who are a little wistful and hoping at some time in their lives to settle down here.”

Noble and his wife, Jackie, live in Orange County, Calif., and are joined in Steamboat by wannabes from Princeton, N.J., Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago as well as Denver.

“Two years ago, we had a sailboat that became infamous because it almost knocked down several power lines,” Constable said. “This year, we have secured a very large flag — it is 12 feet by 18 feet. We wouldn’t miss the parade no matter where we are on the planet.”

Good news, folks. I now pronounce you official Steamboat locals. Cash in your 401(k)s.

Real snow often is featured prominently in Steamboat’s Independence Day parade, and one would think that if anyone could come through in 2012, it would be the scientists who work at the Storm Peak Laboratory at the very top of Steamboat Ski Area. Can’t they just make snow?

Apparently not. The lab’s Ian McCubbin said the only snow he could locate this week was a little patch of slush sitting in the sun near the bronze bust of Buddy Werner at the top of the Storm Peak Express chairlift.

Still, McCubbin promised a snow substitute.

“We’ll have plywood snow,” he said. “The theme of our float is snow, so we will have a truck towing a snowflake trailer.”

I guess that means parade-goers can leave their skis at home.

One of the biggest hits at Steamboat street events in 2012 was Spike the big red dragon. Charlie and Gail Holthausen said Spike has been totally refurbished for the Fourth of July with fresh paint, a brand-new smoke machine and fresh CDs draped across his chest like dragon scales. Don’t get too close.

Finally, you might be a redneck if you think the sanitary landfill outside Milner is a better place to shop than the Cherry Creek Mall.

“Last year, we shopped at the Home Resource Center at the Milner Mall and found a ton of props,” said Travis Mathey, commissioner of the Routt County Redneck Olympics. “I had a beat-up old riding lawn mower pulling a bath tub on wheels with my wife, Deanna, in it. I’m going to have to come up with something to top that.”

Good luck with that, Travis, and bring on the mullet.

“My son Anthony Mathey, 10, has been growing his hair out for six months so he can create a mullet,” Mathey said. “That’s how good a kid he is.”

Only in America.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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