Carnival brings crowds |

Carnival brings crowds

Sunshine and festivities give businesses a boost

Brandon Gee

— Winter Carnival events drew throngs of people to downtown Steamboat Springs on Sunday, with crowds flooding local restaurants and bars in addition to Lincoln Avenue.

“It brings a lot of business,” Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant bartender Chris Andersen said of the annual festival sponsored by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “These are the busiest days we have of the year, for sure.”

A block south, at Sunpie’s Bistro on Yampa Street, the story was much the same as people filed in after the carnival’s street events and the Diamond Hitch Parade.

“This is the biggest week for us for the entire winter,” owner Colleen Miller said.

Among Sunpie’s clientele Sunday afternoon were members of the Steamboat Springs Rugby team, who had just entertained the Lincoln Avenue crowd with a clumsy showing in the Diamond Hitch Parade.

“There’s always someone who bites it,” Brad “Warpig” Wiliams said. “This was just my year.”

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Williams considered himself lucky to have only lost his footing.

“One of the guys got some horse manure on him, but I think he’ll recover,” he said.

Annie, a Belgian horse who has participated in Winter Carnival for five years, pulled the rugby team.

“She put up with a lot of stuff today,” rugby team member Dave Schulz said. “She really likes it. She gets really animated out in the street.”

The team’s wardrobe of shorts and jerseys would seem an impractical choice for early February, but the final day of Winter Carnival events was graced with what has become a rarity in Steamboat: sun. The riverside backyard at Sunpie’s, a popular summer feature, was cleared of snow so people could enjoy the weather and watch the ski-jump competition across the river at Howelsen Hill.

“This is the first time in I can’t remember how long that it wasn’t frigid,” Steamboat resident Celia Mitchell said. “It’s been fabulous. There’s just nothing better than Winter Carnival.”

Mitchell was sporting a jacket signed by the most famous visitor to Winter Carnival this year: Glen Plake. Plake, a skiing icon recognizable for his tall Mohawk hairstyle, was in town filming his TV program “Reel Thrills.” The show airs daily at 7 p.m. on Steamboat tv18. Plake stood near the finish line during Sunday’s street events, and his presence inspired competitors to give it their all.

“The only advice I have is don’t let go,” Adam Eimers said of the shovel race, which he was participating in for the fourth year.

“I don’t know how you could look yourself in the mirror if you let go, especially with Glen Plake out there,” added Gregg Joyce, who took third place in Sunday’s competition.

Joyce called the shovel race a “guaranteed fat lip.” Participating in the event for his third year, Joyce said this year’s race was the craziest and bumpiest yet.

“The hardest part is you’re getting pounded in the face by all the snow the horses are kicking up,” Eimers said.

Minus the rugby team’s performance, the Diamond Hitch Parade proved a more tame attraction than the street events. A variety of participants marched in the parade, including the “Bernese Mountain Dogs.” Lynnette Weaver said the dogs, a Swiss breed traditionally used as herding dogs, have participated in the parade for nine years. The dogs have grown in popularity in that time, and Weaver estimated there now are about 30 of them in Steamboat.

“They have these wonderful, docile personalities,” Weaver said. “It’s a mountain town, and it’s a perfect town for Bernese. They love the snow.”

Kathy Cline walked Nelly, who at 3 months old was the youngest Bernese in the parade.

“They’re a sweet breed,” Cline said.

To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail