Tom Ross: Button!? I don’t need no stinkin’ button |

Tom Ross: Button!? I don’t need no stinkin’ button

The Steamboat Springs High School skiing band epitomizes the qualities that make Steamboat, Steamboat, as it performs on Lincoln Avenue during the Winter Carnival Parade.
Matt Stensland

I was taken aback Saturday night when a member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club staff approached me at the Winter Carnival Night Show and asked me if I wouldn’t mind returning my Winter Carnival button.

“That’s never happened before,” I thought to myself while hanging on tight to my souvenir button (my collection goes back to the 1980s). I asked the staffer, “What will I do tomorrow” when I want to attend the parade?

The reply came back: “Since we’re already out of buttons, we won’t be asking you to buy another one.”

That’s when I realized they wanted my button so they wouldn’t miss out on the earnings potential of Winter Carnival. I took the button off my neck and handed it over.

Before you leap to the conclusion that the carnival organizers failed to order sufficient buttons, consider that last weekend’s unprecedented demand was about 16 percent higher than ever.

People were grabbing up the homespun looking buttons – the new ones that you could hang around your neck on a lanyard instead of pinning them to your best ski jacket.

In case you missed an article by Alexis DeLaCruz in Monday’s paper, the Winter Sports Club believes it may have sold more than 6,000 buttons (including mine, twice) at $7 a pop. By Saturday night, volunteers were scrounging for more buttons.

That’s very good news for a community nonprofit that has a $2 million annual budget and subsidizes the participation of more than 1,100 youngsters in competitive skiing and snowboarding programs.

At my house, we know how difficult it is to sell Winter Carnival buttons – we were co-chairs of that committee one February almost a decade ago. Our ski caps are off to this year’s committee chair people.

Paul Berge, president of the board of directors of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Foundation, told me Winter Carnival is the club’s third-most important fund-raiser every year.

I have a strong sense there could be more good news around the corner for Berge and people like him who volunteer for Routt County’s nonprofits. Many of the affluent people coming to Steamboat to purchase legacy homesteads for their families will be looking for ways to become involved. At the risk of sounding cynical, many will write checks to cement their new relationships.

Will the new arrivals and their wealth change Steamboat forever in the process? You bet they will.

Should we welcome them to the community anyway? I would say that’s our only reasonable choice.

Nonprofit organizations, from churches to the Kiwanis Club, offer the best opportunities for new arrivals to get plugged into their adopted community. And those same organizations, from Yampatika to Advocates, represent our best chance to preserve the old Steamboat we all love. Their events and activities create community.

Just in case you haven’t begun already, the time has arrived to take stock of the qualities that make Steamboat, Steamboat.

Everywhere I go this month, people are talking about the pace of change in the community. People note there are at least eight major construction projects preparing to launch this spring, with housing priced at $600 per square foot and up. Inevitably, contractors will have to import workers from outside the community. They, in turn, will create new demands on our housing market and on our schools. Change is difficult to assimilate.

A resort executive asked me last week to describe the qualities that make Steamboat, Steamboat. I told him that to my mind, Steamboat has always been populated by unpretentious people with a sense of humility.

If you look closely at the 2007 carnival button, you’ll see that it is the opposite of pretentious. It’s unpretentious just like Steamboat’s 94-year-old Winter Carnival.

We like it that way.

To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 Or e-mail

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