107th Winter Carnival wraps up in Steamboat Springs with Diamond Hitch Parade (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 107th Winter Carnival celebration culminated with paradegoers lining snow-covered Lincoln Avenue for the Diamond Hitch Parade on Sunday, Feb. 9.
Configured in a diamond or multiple diamonds connected by rope, teams of skiers were pulled down the street by people, animals or motorized vehicles.
The temperature Sunday was about 15 degrees lower than the unseasonably warm Saturday but still relatively mild with light snow and sun trying hard to break through the cloud cover.
Over hot chocolate and donuts, spectators chatted about Saturday’s world record-setting firework and digging out from the storm that dumped several feet of snow across the Yampa Valley.
It was a little chilly for the world famous Steamboat Springs High School Ski Band members playing instruments with bare fingers, but the weather was perfect for snow conditions for the horses, said Sarah Konopka, Street Events director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber.
While Saturday’s balmy weather kept the humans warm, it made for slippery snow for the horses. When the snow melts and breaks down it can expose wet pavement, Konopka described. One horse did fall on Saturday, but there were no injuries.
And while the storm supplied plenty of snow, it kept Steamboat Springs Public Works employees extra busy on top of their usual routine of adding and removing snow from the street. The crews had already been working for 48 hours before having to prepare for the Street Events, according to Konopka.
“We are going to buy them so many donuts,” Konopka said.
The turnout for the parade was lower than normal, and Konopka attributed the smaller crowd to the enticement of fresh snow on the slopes and icy roads that made travel more challenging.
On Friday, Interstate 70 westbound was closed for most of the day. There were visitors, volunteers and registered participants who didn’t make it because of the conditions and closures, Konopka said.
But all in all it was a very successful parade and weekend of events, she reported.
About 20 volunteers helped run the Street Events each day involving approximately 350 participants. Konopka said those crucial volunteers include the horsemen who have a relationship with all the riders and know how to read the horses, so they can pair up horses with the competitors they pull behind.
There was one kid who got his wind knocked out during the donkey jump, Konopka said.
“He got a lot of air,” she added.
But that was the worst of it — and not bad — considering the potential for mishap when people are doing things like riding metal snow shovels behind galloping horses. The donkey jump is always the most popular event, she said, with the registration filling up within minutes and a long wait list.
A personal highlight for Konopka was a Chihuahua pulling its 4-year-old human sister on a sled during the Dog Dash.
The competing dogs behaved well, Konopka said. There were no fights, though every year there is a bit of canine confusion in terms of “Why is there a human in a sled attached to me?”
Grand marshals and father-and-daughter duo Paul Berge and Maren Berge reigned over the parade, waving as they rode by on their gondola stagecoach pulled by draft horses.
Then spectators were treated to little princesses bundled up and waving from their sleds, horses with their fuzzy winter coats, a reindeer, a stubborn pony pulling a sparkling chariot and a pack of Bernese mountain dogs.
The parade also featured an impressive variety of snow cats — vintage, large, small, blue, orange and a number of creative snow cat conversion vehicles.
But more than anything, said Steamboat resident Gary Dickerson, the parade showcased the community — from schools, elected officials and Search and Rescue volunteers to Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes and business institutions.
“It’s a great representation of the community,” said Shanay Fry, Dickerson’s daughter. “Everyone knows everyone in the parade — it’s such a great community and family event.”
Visiting for the week, Dickerson’s granddaughter Layla Fry spent her second year competing in the Street Events and riding in the parade.
She did an awesome job in the street slalom and ring and steer events, Dickerson said, “especially for a California girl.”
It’s becoming a multi-generational family tradition, Dickerson said, with Layla’s 3-year-old brother looking forward to when he is old enough to compete.
Dickerson said he felt Steamboat’s unique sense of community when he was driving through town more than three decades ago, before he made the decision to relocate here.
And Winter Carnival, every year, Dickerson said, is a “must do.”
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