12 locals offer the inside scoop on Steamboat Fourth of July

Audrey Dwyer
Photo is from Jumpin' and jammin' event.
Couloir Images, Rory B. Clow Photography
"Quick Purple Slaw" Recipe By Lisa Popovich, executive director Mainstreet Steamboat Ingredients:
  • Red Cabbage - shredded
  • Hiney Crisp Apples - cubed
  • A little bit of green onion and some chopped pecans
Directions: The dressing is Mayo with rice wine vinegar and sugar, salt and pepper. "We give it a good toss and keep it super cold. Its great with cold chicken after a little SUP on the river."

If the founding fathers were alive today and spending the Fourth of July in Steamboat Springs, they’d doubtless be impressed.

From parading through the streets — donning your best cowboy boots for the annual Cowboy Round-Up Days rodeo — to crooning Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A” at surprising pitches as the fireworks show unfolds, Steamboat knows how to celebrate that July day 238 years ago when some universal truths became self-evident.

Whether you’re prepared for the festivities or scrambling to organize a last-minute cookout party, we’ve asked a few locals for advice on where to go and what to see, as well as their favorite memories of the Fourth of July in Steamboat.

… on celebrating like a local

“Steamboat Springs’ Fourth of July celebration starts out as a Norman Rockwell painting, a blast from the past, a truly small town event that creates a unique feel of a past time.  But, the celebration ends with the greatest fireworks display you will ever witness.” — Kent Vertrees, Steamboat Powdercats, Friends of the Yampa board member, one of the organizers of Yampa River Festival, avid river and outdoor enthusiast.

“I think a first-time visitor should expect a lot of people but a lot of friendly people, and they should just go with it. You will never meet a stranger in Steamboat, so if someone asks you to join them to watch the fireworks, do it! And don’t be in a hurry. Enjoy a thing we like to call, ‘Steamboat Time.'”— Lisa Popovich, Main Street Steamboat Springs marketing director

“It’s horrible. You should probably stay away. But, in all seriousness, the Fourth of July in Steamboat is amazing and draws a lot of people. We have one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen, only to be rivaled by the show at Winter Carnival in February. We celebrate our heritage with ski jumping in summer, rodeo and, of course, a plethora of other events. Town is really busy, so if you choose to partake, please respect it. Don’t throw your beer cans in the river if you tube.” — Rory Clow, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club marketing director

“My favorite way to celebrate is being with my family and watching my son Mason’s face light up with every firework explosion. Expect a fun party in town and a killer fireworks show. Leave your cars, and use public transit, bikes and feet; (it’s) much less stressful to get around downtown.” — Sean Regan, owner of Old Town Pub & Restaurant

“I love going back and forth to all of the events, starting with the Ski Town Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, then the Nordic races on Lincoln, followed by the parade. I love the strawberry sundaes from the United Methodist Church and the Routt Beer floats and live music in front of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. Then, we all walk over to the Jumpin’ and Jammin’ Ski Jump competition at Howelsen Hill, because it’s so amazing to watch Steamboat’s great athletes flying off the big jumps. Then, we take a break and recharge for the fireworks, which are the best in the United States.” — Shannon Lukens, Steamboat Radio news director

“The parade in Yampa is, by far, the best event in Routt County and the ideal place to be for the Fourth of July. I would bet that most people really haven’t ever experienced anything like it. It is 100-percent my favorite thing to do on Fourth of July — well worth the drive. Don’t forget to stick around for the cowboy polo afterward — not to be missed.” — Beth Melton, Northwest Colorado BOCES and Steamboat Springs Young Professionals Network board member

“My family and I have chosen the past several years to celebrate in Yampa. It harkens back to those days when my grandpa participated in the rodeo in Steamboat Springs — it’s truly a hometown event, where you know nearly everyone in the parade, as well as those watching it. There’s no pretense, just an honest celebration of our independence and what it means to be an American. Lying on a blanket out on the elementary school lawn where your kids practice soccer, watching the fireworks with your family and seeing the Flat Tops in the distance and the stars twinkling above the dark South Routt sky is, in its own way, as impressive as Steamboat’s fireworks display.” — Todd Hagenbuch, extension agent, CSU Extension

“I like to celebrate over at Hahn’s Peak Road House, where you can enjoy live music and then watch the fireworks over Steamboat Lake.” — Tommy Larson, Horizons volunteer coordinator

“Some of my favorite ways to celebrate are to join the annual inner tube spawn on the Yampa River (leave no trace and rig to flip, of course); summit a 14’er; wear all the red, white, and blue that I can muster.” — Laraine Martin, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps project coordinator and avid outdoor enthusiast

… on getting the best view of the parade

“Watching the parade, it’s best to go early and set up a 10×10 tent somewhere near Seventh street on the south side of Lincoln.” — Kent Vertrees

“The best place to watch the parade, I would say, is the Roof Top Deck at Salt and Lime or right by the stage in front of FM Light.” — Lisa Popovich

“The best spot is near the announcer’s stage, so you can hear information about the participants.” — Rory Clow

“I think the parade is best viewed from the courthouse lawn, always a fun gathering. No place better to watch the parade (than) from inside the Old Town Pub with a street view.” — Sean Regan

“The corner of Seventh and Lincoln is always a good spot, since the parade typically makes that turn as it heads to Yampa Street, but wear your sunscreen there. The south side of the street offers better shade.” — Chris Tamucci, director of operations for Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and BAP

“You better just stake out a spot early in the morning; it gets crowded everywhere along Main Street on parade day.” — Laraine Martin

… on the fireworks show

“Hands down, the best place I’ve watched Steamboat’s Fourth of July fireworks show is from the top of the Howelsen Hill judges tower.  I volunteered several years, helping the local fireworks team assemble the explosives, and one year, I was on the team that set up the fireworks at the tower. At one point, once our set of fireworks had blasted off, the casings they were in lit on fire, and I had to use the extinguisher to put out the fire. All the while, fireworks were blowing off just over my head.  What an adrenaline rush that was.” — Kent Vertrees

“Either at the college, for a panoramic show, or right at Howelsen Hill, if you want to feel like the fireworks are falling down on you. If you like a more quiet show, head up to Steamboat Lake for their fireworks show!” — Rory Clow

The best place to watch the fireworks is from any Yampa Street deck! Like Sake2U, Aurum, E3 or my favorite, Cugino’s.” — Lisa Popovich

“I have watched the fireworks from every corner of town, but one of my favorite places to watch them is from the Fairview neighborhood. Sometimes, it takes a small hike to get a good spot, but it’s worth it.” — Melissa Valrey, Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty, Marketing Coordinator

“Best spot to see the fireworks I think is from the deck at E3 Chophouse, of course. The boom is so loud overhead you can hear the windowpanes and wine glasses rattling.” — Laraine Martin

“Right in the thick of it at Howelsen is great if you really like the booms and claps. Up on Fish Creek Falls is also a good one that is sometimes overlooked. West of town is further from the action but offers an unobstructed view.” — Chris Tamucci

… on making memories

“My favorite July 4 parade was when our youngsters returned from Iraq and led the parade. The united and appreciative applause reverberated down Lincoln Avenue. It was as though people remembered the division and ugliness of Vietnam and wanted to say something different. When we stand next to each other as neighbors, our differences blend into appreciation for each other and for the country that encourages us to be the individuals we are.” — Harriet Freiberger, long-time Routt County resident

“My favorite memory of the Fourth of July was in the late ’80s (I think 1987) when my grandparents, Bob and Elaine Gay, were the grand marshals of the Cowboy’s Roundup Days. My sister and I got to ride in the stagecoach that carried them into the rodeo arena, and for a fifth-grader, I just thought that was about the coolest thing ever.  I was also so proud to see them ride down Lincoln, sitting on the back of a red convertible and waving to everyone, knowing that everyone else thought they were as special as I did. My grandpa participated in the Cowboy’s Roundup Days rodeo for many years when it was still a locals event and won the team-roping event a time or two.” — Todd Hagenbuch

“In the early 2000’s, when I was managing the Blue Sky West rafting company, our office was at 11th Street and Lincoln, so the parade would come by our office first, and we would have water fights with all the kids and parade participants as they walked by.”   —Kent Vertrees

“My favorite memory of Fourth of July was actually when the fireworks were cancelled in 2012, because it was so dry, and in 1964, when The Tribute played a free concert at the Hill.” — Brian Smith, concert and band promoter for B Smith Presents

… be on the lookout for

 “The costumes. I think this year the red, white and blue will be truly a site to see. I love rocking my Pit Viper sunglasses; (it) doesn’t get more American than that.” Rob Peterson, marketing specialist of Big Agnes, avid outdoor enthusiast, winner of the 2016 Best of the Boat “Best Mustache”

“There are two things that I think get overlooked during the Fourth of July: the Pioneer Block Party at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, which is super fun and so ‘Steamboat,’ and the other is the Jumpin’ and Jamin’ with the Winter Sports Club at Howelsen Hill. Where else is there ski jumping on the Fourth of July?” — Lisa Popovich

“Bring your trash home after the fireworks so workers don’t have to stay late to clean up. When we say lock the garbage dumpster, we mean it; the bears here are wicked smart. We provide an amazing show all weekend long for both locals and visitors to enjoy; show your enjoyment by respecting the valley.” — Rory Clow

“If you have never been to Steamboat during Fourth of July, you should expect to have one of the best weekends of the summer! It’s filled with fun events and summer activities to attend.” — Melissa Valrey

“For those who have never been here on the Fourth of July, I don’t think you’ll find anywhere more American. You can feel the community come together to celebrate both our country and the true western heritage that is Steamboat Springs.” — Chris Tamucci

“We all come from different backgrounds and belief systems, but on this Fourth of July, let’s all be proud to wave the stars and stripes and remember all the good things about our diverse and resilient country. ‘Merica.” — Laraine Martin


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