COVID-19 leaders named parade marshals as 4th of July tradition returns to Steamboat |

COVID-19 leaders named parade marshals as 4th of July tradition returns to Steamboat

Eli Nykamp, left, stands next to Lauren Bryan, right. (Photo courtesy.)

After helping to lead the Yampa Valley through the COVID-19 pandemic, two local frontline medical workers have been named grand marshals of this year’s Steamboat Springs Fourth of July Parade.

Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, and Eli Nykamp, the hospital’s director of operations and incident commander, will lead the parade, which is making its return for the first time since 2019.

For Nykamp, the parade represents the end of a long year filled with stress and tragedy, and marks the ability to enjoy celebrations and crowds, once again.

“It was very unnerving for a lot of people to work here, but we were able to make it through the pandemic,” Nykamp said. “To see high vaccination rates and low hospitalization rates, it really feels like we’re coming out of this strong.”

Naming Bryan and Nykamp as marshals is symbolic of the sacrifices medical professionals made during the pandemic, as well as the lives they saved in helping provide and discover knowledge about the virus.

“They were instrumental in our community’s fight against COVID,” said Nick Stonecipher, marketing coordinator at Yampa Valley Bank, a parade sponsor. “It’s a salute to everyone who helped our community get through and continue to get through the pandemic.”

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club will be doing Nordic races on roller skis down Lincoln Avenue in the morning, then the formal parade will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday.

While the parade was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bryan said this year, it will also be a celebration of Routt County achieving high vaccinations and low hospitalizations.

“We’re really trying to look out for everyone in the community by trying to promote vaccines and reduce spread before the vaccine was available,” Bryan said. “It’s nice to have some togetherness and have a celebration.”

While fireworks are traditionally part of Independence Day celebrations, the city of Steamboat, Routt County and state of Colorado each have restrictions banning fireworks. Fireworks that leave the ground are illegal statewide, and flammable materials of any sort, including sparklers, are banned in Steamboat city limits.

“The reason those statutes are in place is to protect our community from these dangerous items,” Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Cory Christensen said. “No one should be setting off any fireworks in our community.”

Even without fireworks, those involved in the day’s events, particularly the parade, said they are happy to celebrate the nation’s independence and enjoy bringing the community together.

“The Fourth of July parade is a tradition that has been in place for many years,” said Kara Stoller, CEO of Steamboat Springs Chamber. “We are honored to continue to carry that out and get back to the traditional parade this year.”

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