Former Steamboat Springs local takes her place in season 45 ‘Survivor’ cast
When the nation is introduced to the new cast of “Survivor” Wednesday, viewers in Steamboat will come across a familiar face as former Steamboat Springs resident Kendra McQuarrie begins her quest to become the “Sole Survivor.”
“I left Steamboat in late July,” McQuarrie said. “I think I’m going to have a big fan base in Steamboat. I feel like I’ve left my mark on Steamboat pretty hard, not only through the restaurant industry, but through softball and Steamboat comedy.”
McQuarrie, 30, came to Steamboat from Taos, New Mexico, and lived here for five years until July. That’s when she said she got a “really cool” housing opportunity back in Taos and decided to return to New Mexico.
McQuarrie said she loved living in Steamboat Springs and still has strong ties to the community where she worked as a bartender and server at several local restaurants including Table 79, Aurum, Yampa Valley Kitchen and Salt & Lime.
Those connections remain strong even after changing her home base, and she said that last summer she would make the seven-hour drive between Taos and Steamboat to compete with Steamboat Springs softball teams at Howelsen Hill.
She is hoping her Steamboat friends will tune in this week as she is introduced as one of 18 contestants competing for the title of Sole Survivor and the $1 million cash prize that comes with it during the 45th season of “Survivor,” which is set in the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.
In addition to the 17 new cast members, the show will also feature the return of Bruce Perreault, a contestant from last season who was medically evacuated just minutes into the first episode after hitting his head on a beam. “Survivor” premieres at 7 p.m. (MST) Wednesday on CBS. This year “Survivor” episodes will be 90 minutes.
McQuarrie worked as a bartender and server after moving to Steamboat Springs in 2018.
She said her experience in Steamboat Springs, and developing relationships with both the tourists she depended on in the busy seasons as well as the locals who supported her when things slowed down, has uniquely prepared her for what she will face in this season of “Survivor.”
“A big part of ‘Survivor’ is creating bonds, creating alliances and making friends,” said McQuarrie, who added that anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry knows that is like multitasking on steroids. “My restaurant work in a tourist town — and we know how busy it gets in winter — really prepared me for the game and to be able to function under high-stress situations and keep a cool head.”
McQuarrie found out she would be a contestant on “Survivor” just before beginning a shift at work in February.
“I was actually getting ready for a shift at work when I got the call,” McQuarrie said. “I obviously couldn’t tell anyone and had to act like everything was normal that night at work when really I’m just freaking out on the inside.”
McQuarrie said she wasn’t a “super fan” of the show but was obsessed with it as a child. She said that at that time, she dreamed of being a cast member on “Survivor.”
Then a couple of summers ago before applying, she decided to trade in her Friday nights on the town for a night in front of the television where she rediscovered the show on Netflix. At one point, she said she stayed up all night watching a complete season, and when she laid back in bed to go to sleep at 7 a.m., she decided to take a her shot.
“I was literally laying in my bed and thought, ‘I could win this — I could be on the show,'” McQuarrie said. “That’s what sparked me to apply.”
McQuarrie could not talk about any of the details from the upcoming seasons during an interview last week, but she encourages people in Steamboat Springs to watch and discover what happens themselves. She said she is familiar with past players — including the competitive Natalie Anderson and Carolyn Wiger, whom McQuarrie described as out-of-the-box and 100% authentically herself — but fans should expect her to plot her own course this season.
“People always ask you how you’re going to play or what your strategy will be,” McQuarrie said. “I guess the best answer I could ever give is, ‘I’m just going to play like me.’ I don’t think I’ll play like anyone else really, but I do find inspiration from strong women players.”
She is also excited that her friends in Steamboat Springs will be behind her and believes her experiences living in this mountain town will be helpful.
“That’s where I feel like I really am getting the most support from because it’s been my home base for so long now,” McQuarrie said. “I’m just super grateful for the community and their support.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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