Steamboat gears up for a very different, COVID-safe Women’s March
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:45 p.m. Monday with an edited headline.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Irene Avitia thinks often about Nov. 7, 2020, the day California Sen. Kamala Harris was elected the first female vice president of the U.S.
Avitia’s 13-year-old daughter dreams of becoming president someday, and seeing someone who looked like her — a female and daughter of immigrants — was a moment Avitia said she had trouble putting into words but that she’ll never forget.
“’She said she is a daughter of immigrants, and she inspires me, and she’s a leader I want to look up to,’” Avitia said her daughter told her. “It’s definitely a personal inspiration for her.”
Avitia and a group of other women around Routt County have planned the fourth annual Women’s March, with a theme called SuperSheroes, based on Harris’ book “Superheroes are Everywhere.” The event holds an emphasis on honoring Harris’ historic victory as well as the sacrifices and successes women have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, it’s a little bit different because we’re getting our first female vice president,” said Jennifer Bock, co-organizer of the event. “We’ll be able to honor each other and sort of recognize the struggles that everyone has had this year.”
Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in October, the national Women’s March group organized to march before the election. The first national Women’s March was held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017 and, in the years since, have been held around the same time in January.
This year’s event will be a bit different than the traditional demonstration downtown due to COVID-19 requirements. Participants are invited to pick up a yard sign from one of multiple locations — all listed on the group’s Facebook page —and place it in the yard of one of their “sheroes.” They can then post a photo celebrating her on social media with the hashtag #womensmarchonsteamboat. The group is encouraging an optional $10 donation per sign to cover the cost of the signs. Donations can be made to @HelenBeall using Venmo.
The group will also host a readalong Jan. 20 in both English and Spanish on its Facebook page with a virtual toast at 5:30 p.m. the same night. Then, in lieu of the traditional parade, on Jan. 23, the group will hold a COVID-19-safe car parade around Steamboat.
“It’s been such an incredibly hard year,” said Beth Melton, a Routt County commissioner and co-organizer of the event. “But the first woman and the first woman of color as vice president is a huge thing to celebrate.”
While the country has faced a year of trials — a deadly pandemic, contentious presidential election, natural disasters and high-profile instances of police brutality — several organizers saw the women’s march as an opportunity for happiness in the midst of tragedy.
“We have some really amazing female leaders here in the valley,” Bock said. “We need to get back to that and reflect on all the good things that have happened.”
For Avitia, the timing of holding the celebration now is a reminder of the good in the country and a distraction from the bad.
“This is a very important year in our history, and I want to show my daughters that this is a country of opportunity,” she said. “No matter your background, no matter where you come from, you can reach your goal if you fight and work for it.”
In addition to honoring Harris, the organizers emphasized the need for appreciating Routt County’s female essential workers — nurses, grocery store clerks, teachers and mothers.
“Women have been through a lot, and it’s important to honor them and their role in society,” Avitia said. “As a mom with a full-time job, just trying to juggle these hats that we constantly wear and on top of the pandemic has been really hard.”
Beall, event co-organizer, said Routt County’s essential workers are what holds the community together during COVID-19, particularly in a city like Steamboat that relies heavily on tourism.
“Throughout the pandemic, there are thousands of superheroes in our community who don’t get honored, so we wanted to figure out a way to make someone’s day better,” Beall said. “The pandemic is wearing on all of us, and even though there’s a vaccine, we still have months to go.”
In honor of celebrating Harris specifically, the event’s organizers have tried to focus on making the march more intersectional, as Melton said it has earned a reputation for being specifically catered to upper- or middle-class white women.
“I think it’s important for all of us to value diversity and celebrate those accomplishments of women of color,” Melton said. “I think that’s a problem that’s existed for the Women’s March in general — that it’s just for rich, white women.”
The organizers also stressed the Women’s March is a nonpartisan event, despite the national Women’s March beginning as a response to President Donald Trump’s election.
“People in Steamboat, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, the nurses and the workers at the grocery stores are going to treat you the same,” Bock said. “We’re trying to recognize all kinds of women across the board here.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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