Winter Carnival 2015: Button serves as vital part of Carnival tradition |

Winter Carnival 2015: Button serves as vital part of Carnival tradition

Rory Clow participates in the shovel races in the Winter Carnival street events as a youngster.

I am 8 years old, and it’s the night before my favorite holiday. Snow is gently falling, and my small body is wiggling with excitement. I don’t think I can possibly sleep tonight; tomorrow, my parents are going to take me to see “The Man.” He only comes once a year, on this special night … The Lighted Man.

I’m squeezing my eyes shut, but I’m still seeing bright lights flash and fireworks dance in my brain. Snow sculptures parade through my thoughts as horses pull lucky children through the streets. It all seems like a dream; waking up to see Steamboat’s streets filled with snow, and kids careening down the main street behind those stunning, beautiful horses.

I’m 8 years old, and I don’t know that the calendar doesn’t designate this week as a holiday. For me, the Winter Carnival has more excitement, tradition and magic than anything I’ve ever experienced.

Someday, I’m going to be one of those lucky children who are brave enough to hold onto that rope behind the horse. Or maybe a cowgirl pulling the athletes along the streets.

Perhaps someday, I’ll be the proud young winner of the annual Winter Carnival button contest, and I will see my artwork appear on thousands of programs and posters across town, announcing the arrival of our unique mountain celebration. More importantly, thousands of people will buy a button hosting my artwork; supporting my favorite holiday.

I’m almost 30 now, and I have returned to Steamboat Springs. I’m a grown adult who works for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and finds that one of the best parts of my job is helping to ensure that this “holiday” happens.

I think 8-year-old Rory would be proud; I found my glory in those street events by becoming a shovel racer (If I apply for jobs in Steamboat, I put that on my resume, because they know how high an achievement it is). I pursued being a cowgirl, and I even became a button artist. It didn’t happen until I was in high school, but it helped solidify my decision that I was going to pursue my passions and go to art school.

My 8-year-old self would be so proud, because for one week, I was small-town famous, and the love and encouragement from the community helped to push me along the life-path I have chosen.

What’s behind that $10 Winter Carnival Button that is required to spectate or participate in all of the events? I have heard the naysayers commenting, “Why should we purchase a button to walk down the street, or to watch the Night Extravaganza from across the valley?”

But 8-year-old Rory would roll her eyes. They are missing the point of the Winter Carnival button, which, in addition to being your admission ticket to five days of exciting outdoor events with like-minded, winter-loving people, is about tradition. Forty-five years of button-tradition, to be exact.

How else would this carnival happen without our support? If $10 helps to ensure that our community has this unique celebration, and more importantly, that someday our children will grow up to experience the same “holiday,” then it is $10 well spent.

It also supports the very athletes who put on the amazing shows of athleticism — not everyone can soar off of the historic Nordic jumps through a blazing fiery hoop. Most importantly, the button is about hometown pride. I live, breathe and work for the season called “winter.” I have a pair of downhill skis, cross country skis, Telemark skis and a snowboard in my truck at all times. The Winter Carnival is “my” event, just as much as it belongs to every resident, visitor and spectator who can say they love the winter and wear the button.

This year, I am proud to see 10-year-old button contest winner Caroline Gilchrist’s artwork across town in windows and on lapels, let alone be displayed on the official Winter Carnival website ( Her design features the fiery hoop, cut out of construction paper, and an athlete in the Night Extravaganza silhouetted in glitter soaring above the houses in town.

In Steamboat, Winter Carnival buttons embody the excitement of the celebration and are collected like stamps and rare currency — a reminder of the amazing heritage our town has.

For me, it celebrates a childhood that I was lucky to live. It reminds me of the snow sculptures we carved on the streets in high school that took weeks of drawing, preparation and planning, only to find it takes seconds to lop the head off of the giant turtle you were trying to carve. It reminds me of the mix of fear and guts it takes that first time you hitch up to be pulled by a wild horse in front of a cheering crowd. The button brings back the excitement of bundling up, heading to Howelsen Hill and watching the Lighted Man and his crazy entourage of ski patrollers and youths who think skiing with flares is a good idea. (Let’s be honest, I was jealous of those kids, too.)

I encourage all of you — residents, visitors, children and athletes — to come celebrate with us. Build the excitement for your children so they may have memories as wonderful as mine. Purchase your buttons before the carnival starts and wear them proudly. When you see her, smile at button designer Caroline Gilchrist; she is representing all of the future button artists, athletes, cowgirls and cowboys out there who someday will be cheered for in the Winter Carnival.

Let the festivities begin! (And save me a place on one of those shovels!)

— Rory Clow, marketing director Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

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