Not a typical pageant: 4 former Winter Carnival queens reflect on memories of Steamboat tradition
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Seventeen years later, Patty (Hanley) Oakland still remembers people lining up to congratulate her after she was crowned Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival queen in 2004.
Oakland felt the honor was especially great due to its specific recognition of female athletes. Unlike a traditional pageant, the Winter Carnival queens honor Routt County high school seniors who are enrolled in a competitive Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club program, hold a “respectable GPA” and represent the Winter Sports Club in a positive manner.
The Winter Carnival specifically honors women, which Oakland said is rare, especially among athletic contests.
“There aren’t a lot of things that honor women in small winter towns like we have in this community,” Oakland said. “I love that as a female athlete, you’re viewed in this respectable light.”
Sarah Floyd, executive director of the Winter Sports Club, said the Winter Carnival queen tradition fits with Routt County’s history of honoring female leaders — from Steamboat holding the title of Colorado’s first all-female City Council to the annual Women’s March.
“Celebrating women is a longstanding tradition here in Steamboat,” Floyd said.
For Winnie DelliQuadri, receiving the Winter Carnival crown felt like “being a princess for the day.”
DelliQuadri held the title in 1985, and as an adult still living in Steamboat, she said she feels like part of a larger network with queens older and younger than her, including new seniors crowned every year.
“As an adult, I look at all the women who were queens that were a generation older than me, and they were the women I looked up to in the community,” she said. “I look at the queens who are younger than me and what they’ve accomplished both in skiing and in life, and I’m proud to be among them.”
DelliQuadri, who works for the city as the special projects/intergovernmental services manager, said she has enjoyed watching Steamboat grow from a small ranching town to a major resort destination and is glad the Winter Carnival has carried on throughout the years.
“When I was a kid, Steamboat was a tiny town, and the school district put out the only phone book with just kids’ first names,” she said. “Today, we’re a much bigger community, and yet, we have the Winter Carnival, which is one of those closely held community traditions that ties our agricultural community with our skiing community, and that’s a really important thing.”
Erin Gilbertson Davis, who was crowned queen in 1993 and is now the academic dean at Steamboat Mountain School, said receiving the honor has shaped who she’s become as an adult.
“It’s fun because it’s this kind of longstanding Steamboat tradition that I love being a part of,” Davis said. “Many of my students have also gone on to become queens, so it’s fun to share that with them.”
For Tammie Bowes Delaney, receiving the crown in 1983 was a family tradition, as two of her three older sisters also held the title.
“As a little kid, when you’re ski racing, you look up to the queens, and it’s this tradition,” Delaney said. “To have that tradition that’s been handed down for generations is really amazing.”
All four women said while Steamboat has changed over the years, the spirit of coming together to volunteer and enjoy each other’s company has stayed as the “spirit of Winter Carnival,” and while COVID-19 has forced carnival organizers to modify events, they still believe the event will carry the tradition of uniting the community.
“It takes a community to make a really fun thing happen,” Delaney said. “That still rings true today.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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