Winter Carnival button contest still on | SteamboatToday.com
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Winter Carnival button contest still on

The Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs has a display of all winter carnival buttons. (Courtesy/Rory Clow)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — COVID-19 has claimed many a tradition, but the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival button contest will not fall victim to the society-altering virus.

Rory Clow saw the youth winter carnival button contest go away once and revived it when she was hired as the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club director of marketing in 2015. Clow said it’s still unclear what the carnival will look like, but at least, the button contest will be a mainstay and offer a smidge of normalcy.

“We don’t know exactly what the carnival is going to look like this year, but we do know that it’s a tradition. So far, nothing has completely canceled the carnival in the 107 — this will be the 108th — years that it’s happened,” Clow said. “We’re definitely trying to keep as much with tradition as we can, while making variations that will need to take place for COVID-19.”

Anyone 18 or younger can submit a design until Nov. 16, with the theme, “Happy Outside!”

Clow won the button contest when she was in high school, but when she started working for the SSWSC, the youth contest was no more. The contest has been going strong ever since, with a young artist creating the logo for the carnival each year.

According to the Treads of the Pioneers Museum, the button tradition began in 1967, with art done by local artists. In 1981, art teacher Tom Whither got his students involved in the contest, beginning the tradition of kids coloring the buttons.

With a few gaps, the youth art contest continued until 2012. The 100th and 101st carnivals in 2013 and 2014 featured graphically designed buttons, with the intention to have adults design them in the future.

Enter Clow.

Winning the contest in high school meant a lot to Clow and was special because she wasn’t involved in the winter sports club. She thinks allowing any kid to design the button helps bridge a gap between the SSWSC and the rest of the community.

“I think it’s a really great way to have all kids in the community be able to participate,” Clow said. “Winter Carnival definitely features a lot of kids on snow, and I think the button contest is super important because it allows kids who don’t ski and snowboard or aren’t interested in winter sports to still participate in the carnival. That’s why I loved it.”

The theme, “Happy Outside!” is extremely relatable for 2020, a year that people have opted to spend more time outside.

“In past years, we’ve had more specific themes, like “Light Up the Sky” was a reference to Tim Borden’s giant firework,” Clow said. “With the uncertainty of what’s going on, the one thing that we know, even with COVID, is that everyone is really happy to get outside and play.”


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