Lifetime supporters of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to lead Winter Carnival Parade
February 3, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Many of Nancy and Gary Gray's special moments have happened at Winter Carnival.
The Grays have been selected as the 2019 Winter Carnival Parade grand marshals, and they will lead the Diamond Hitch Parade on Lincoln Avenue, which will begin after Street Events at around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 10.
The couple has given years of service to the Winter Carnival and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. The couple chaired the Night Extravaganza for many years, and Nancy twice served as chair of Winter Carnival.
"It was super fun," Gary said describing the Night Extravanganza and how they placed the fireworks and lit them by hand. "We didn't really see the fireworks, just because you'd be ducking as they were going off."
For the Grays, the Night Extravaganza is still the most magical event. While there are a number of scenic spots you'll be able to see the show from around town, Nancy said you should watch from the base area at Howelsen Hill.
"There’s nothing like the smell of the sulfur in the fireworks and the sound of people clapping with their gloves on," she said. “I think it’s magical. That’s one of my favorite things is the smell and the gloves.”
She's been involved with the Winter Carnival since she was old enough to be towed in the Street Events.
"My family was always traditionally volunteers or coaches or workers or athletes for the Winter Sports Club," Nancy said.
Many times, these were concurrent roles.
Nancy grew up on skis, learning as one of the first of the Winter Sports Club's Little Toots and finding her way down Howelsen Hill as her brothers, including Olympian Jim "Moose" Barrows, raced by.
She competed as an Alpine skier for the Winter Sports Club and later became a coach.
She remembers racing in the ruts left by older athletes in Winter Carnival. In the days before groomers, the oldest kids went first, leaving a rutty path down for the younger kids.
"You'd lose the kids in the ruts," she said. "It was one of the rites of passage I guess, to move up so you didn’t have ruts."
Gary never skijored on Lincoln Avenue — he learned to ski in college. The pair met shortly afterward working on the mountain, Gary as a liftie and Nancy as a ski instructor.
In the days before the 1982 Winter Carnival, Nancy was pregnant with daughter Jessica Aldighieri.
The doctor told them the baby would come on Monday or Tuesday after the weekend's hullaballoo of fireworks and ski jumps. The couple enjoyed Friday's events and put off last-minute preparations for the fireworks show, which they were still set to help put on.
Nancy went into labor that night.
"The doctor said 'Well, it will be late afternoon,’ and I said, ‘It can’t be late afternoon. I have to have this baby right now, because Gary has all this work to do,'" Nancy said. "So I did. I had that baby at 9 in the morning, and Gary had to go."
They watched the fireworks show from the hospital room.
Jessica would go on to become Winter Carnival queen, and so far, they're the only mother-daughter duo to both carry the title of Winter Carnival queen.
The Grays always look forward to the parade and running into friends. This year they're looking forward to spending time with family who will trek out to see them lead the parade.
"I think Winter Carnival is one of the places we do have heritage — a heritage for our special community," Nancy said.
She loves the tradition of ranchers and townsfolk coming together, and all of the horses in the streets.
If you only go to one day of events, Nancy recommends Sunday, so you can catch the parade. This year, you'll see her and Gary at the front of the parade, an honor that Nancy said feels like an expression of gratitude from the club she grew up in.