‘Happy Outside’ theme resonates for winning button artist
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The outdoors has perhaps never before been valued as much as over the past year.
“I spent so much time swimming in the river and mountain biking and being in the sun,” said 16-year-old Caroline Landers, winner of the 108th Winter Carnival button contest.
The incredible natural beauty and opportunity for outside activity in the Yampa Valley has always been held in high esteem by residents and visitors. But as the COVID-19 pandemic kept many city dwellers trapped inside tiny apartments, the ability to still get out and enjoy the mountains became all that much more of a gift.
For Landers, a Steamboat Springs High School student, this year’s “Happy Outside” Winter Carnival theme resonated deeply and inspired her watercolor button design.
“This year, I was always outside because there was nothing else to do,” she said.
Landers’ artwork reflects her happiest places — Howelsen Hill Ski Area and the Yampa River — and all under plenty of smiling Colorado sunshine.
Over the summer, she swam in the river’s D-hole with her friends, went kayaking and canoeing and joined an all-girls mountain biking club. She learned to roller skate, participated in a triathlon and went tubing with her grandparents.
In the winter months, she skied with her family, often skinning up the mountain with her mom Kelly Landers.
For the first time this year, Landers will be a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club junior coach for kids younger than 6.
Born and raised in Steamboat, she has been skiing for as long as she can remember.
Landers also has many happy Winter Carnival memories.
Last year, she participated in the three-legged race, the ski band and skijoring.
She also loves the fireworks, which she said “get bigger and bigger each year.”
While there has definitely been disappointment in the past year and uncertain months ahead — particularly canceled events and not seeing friends — Landers found a silver lining in spending more time with her family.
“My family spent an insane amount of time together,” she said. “We are usually off doing our own thing, and this year did so much together. That’s been so fun.”
Landers said she’s always enjoyed art and always wanted to enter the button contest but was too busy or thought about it after it was too late. This year, she had a lot more time at home, and helped with encouragement from her mom, she finally sat down with her paints and came up with her design.
Landers was surprised to receive the email announcing she won. She joined for fun, she said, and didn’t have any expectations.
On seeing her artwork on hundreds of buttons, she’s a bit timid.
“That’s going to be super awkward,” Landers said. “It’ll be cool but really weird.”
As with everything else, this year’s contest was a bit different, according to Rory Clow, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club marketing director.
Typically, the contest has a large presence in schools, with some classes incorporating it into their coursework.
“We were not able to invite schools to participate early since we had to wait so long to see if we could host any part of Winter Carnival,” Clow said of this year’s contest.
While they usually get about 60 entries, this year, there were 22.
“We were absolutely thrilled to have 22 incredible young artists submit on their own,” Clow said.
While the buttons are usually used as an entry ticket for events, this year, they will be limited to 500 collectors buttons.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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