Multi-generational Steamboat family reflects on Winter Carnival memories
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After 35 years of attending the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Marsh Gooding still gets tears in his eyes each year as he watches ranchers on horses pull kids on skies through downtown Steamboat.
“It’s the best weekend of the year for me,” Gooding said.
Gooding is a fifth-generation Steamboat resident, and the Winter Carnival is a tradition that runs deep in his family, with his grandfather starting the “Old Man’s Roman Candle Dance,” a carnival night show tradition where skiers carrying flares and fireworks and jump through flaming hoops.
“There’s a lot of pride in our family heritage,” Marsh said.
Revisiting his favorite Winter Carnival memory, Marsh looks back on the tradition of cowboys and cowgirls riding horses downtown while pulling young skiers along for the ride.
“How fast do you want to go,?” Marsh remembers being asked as a child.
“As fast as you can,” he remembers responding nervously.
Gates Gooding, Marsh’s brother, said he was always nervous to participate in Street Events because he was shy.
“I was really shy ,and I remember hating it, but now I think back on it, and I’m glad that I did it,” he said.
As an adult participating in Winter Carnival, Gates said he loves getting to ski down Howelsen Hill Ski Area in front of his 3-year-old son, who he hopes will join the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and get to take part in the longstanding family tradition.
“He gets so excited about the snow cats and the ranchers, and being able to ski down Howelsen in front of him is so much fun for me,” Gates said.
Gates and Marsh’s mother, Debbie Gooding, said while she did not grow up in Steamboat, she’s lived in town since 1975, and Winter Carnival has become an important part of her life.
“I love the fact that it’s a time-honored transition, especially in a small town where we value a sense of belonging,” Debbie said. “It’s inclusive to people who live here, people who are brand new or people who are just here visiting for the week.”
For Debbie, the most special aspect of Winter Carnival is the volunteers who make it happen every year.
“It’s a testament to the power of coming together as a community,” she said. “None of this would happen, if year after year, people didn’t volunteer.”
Just as she got to watch her kids be pulled down the sidewalk on skis, Debbie said she enjoys watching her sons enjoy the carnival with their kids.
“In another few years, they’ll be riding down the street on skies,” Debbie said of her grandkids.
Hannah Gooding, who grew up in Vermont but moved to Steamboat when she met her husband, Marsh, said while she did not grow up attending Winter Carnival, participating each year is a family tradition for her.
“Just having that small town community feel is something I really cherish,” Hannah said.
In addition to the Street Events and community celebration, Hannah said she is impressed every year when the city shuts down its main road (Lincoln Avenue/U.S. Highway 40) to travelers and “gives it back to the community.”
“It’s also pretty special to raise kids here and know that someday we’ll be watching them ski down Howelsen and be pulled down the street,” she said.
While COVID-19 has forced many modifications of traditional events, members of the Gooding family said they think the safety of the community should be the highest priority, and they are glad Winter Carnival is continuing in some form.
“We’re all in the middle of winter and want to have a good time, but we don’t want to do so at the expense of the health of our community,” Marsh said. “I’m just already thinking about next year.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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