Tom Ross: In tough times, Steamboat can feed your soul for free |

Tom Ross: In tough times, Steamboat can feed your soul for free

— What a strange year 2010 has turned out to be. All the trappings of a flourishing mountain resort town are in place in Steamboat Springs during the last summer of the first decade of the 21st century.

Yet, my colleague Scott Franz reported in the newspaper this week that the Routt County Department of Human Services expects to administer more than $1 million in food assistance to hundreds of local families this year.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was stunned to read that report.

At the same time savvy investors are picking up million-dollar homes at reduced prices, others are scrambling to keep their homes together. And all around us, a rich offering of cultural events is unfolding. The contrast is remarkable.

Should you feel guilty about buying tickets for a concert this summer or going out for a fine restaurant meal? Of course not. We all navigate our own course through life’s opportunities and challenges.

And this community has always excelled at providing cultural opportunities that come at a modest price or are just plain free.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum, with its well curated and maintained exhibits, offers free admission to Routt County residents. The 96th annual Routt County Fair, Aug. 19 to 22, offers a great deal to see and do for the cost of the couple of gallons of gas you’ll burn going to Hayden and back. Think about carpooling with a bunch of kids so they can all learn where food comes from.

Every Steamboat family should consider attending Sunday’s Free Community Matinee Concert at Strings Music Pavilion, where you can sit outside in Strings Park if there isn’t a seat in the pavilion.

If you haven’t been to Strings this year, or aren’t familiar with classical music, this is your chance to be transfixed by a blend of classical and jazz favorites performed by musicians of international stature. The music starts at 4:30 p.m., and speakers will be set up on the lawn.

If you missed the free reggae concert at Howelsen Hill on Friday night, there also is free live music at the Mainstreet Farmers Market this morning from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sixth Street. The music starts at 11 a.m., and it’s a great place for people watching, too.

If you need exercise, walk out the Yampa River Core Trail to the Yampa River Botanic Park and admire the summer blossoms.

Nothing beats the Bud Werner Memorial Library for raising one’s spirits with free cultural entertainment. You can kick back in a buttery-soft leather chair and read a magazine or use a computer to polish your résumé.

If you haven’t caught on to the selection of free DVDs to be checked out, run and get your library card.

This morning’s (free) genealogy lecture at the library with former president of the Denver and Boulder genealogical societies, Pat Roberts, already is packed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catch on to the local genealogy club at the Bud. It’s a hobby that can become an obsession, and the library staff is developing expertise in the subject. The expertise is offered free of charge.

Even if you don’t have tickets for the sold-out Literary Sojourn this year, you can read the books and participate in guided book discussions that will enrich your experience at the library.

There are events planned Aug. 10 and Sept. 7. E-mail Michelle Dover,

I’m not such a Pollyanna that I think free cultural events will solve the problems of people in Steamboat who are struggling to feed their families. But I’m pretty convinced they’ll feed your soul and replenish your sense of well-being.

Dig in.

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