Winter Carnival events take to locals’ backyards

Cooper Counts competes during the 2018 Winter Carnival Street Events. (Matt Stensland/file photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While this year’s 108th Winter Carnival celebration will look decidedly different than in years past, the rich history of tradition will remain the same.

In fact, history will be a main focus of the event this year, with the Tread of Pioneers Museum leading the charge.

“In a normal year, when Winter Carnival is going on, it’s very spectator-based, and it’s all out on the streets and on Howelsen Hill,” said Candice Bannister, the museum’s executive director. “But this year, with no Street Events and less to attend, it’s a perfect time to take a look back on 108 years of history.”

Street Events have long been a part of the Carnival’s history; but when they began in 1915, they didn’t look quite the same as they do today.

“Every year that passed, the Street Events on Lincoln Avenue got bigger and more elaborate,” said Katie Adams, museum curator. “There was everything from chasing greased pigs and tug-of-war to a Boy Scouts campfire-starting race. Local merchants contributed prizes that were just as obscure as the events. It might be a pound of cheese, a bucket of lard or handmade fudge; basically, anything they could give, they did. And everyone loved it.”

In honor of past Street Events, the museum is encouraging families and children to participate this year in their own way — by making up a Winter Carnival event or trying one out from past years.

Katie Konold, the museum’s education coordinator, is providing local teachers with historical excerpts and writing prompts for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, as well as encouraging teachers to try fun events with their students in school or assign them as homework.

“Winter Carnival events have historically included everything under the sun,” Bannister said. “Everything you can think of as far as winter and being outside has been or could be an event.”

The museum is encouraging children and families to share the events they have created in their own backyards by posting videos on Facebook.

Additionally, the museum will roll out many other types of events for the 108th Winter Carnival with options to participate virtually, in person or at home.

“Everything we’re doing this year is a way for families to participate in Winter Carnival without having spectator events,” Bannister said.

In-person events will include the Olympic Heritage Tour, which is led by six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick, and the Iconic Walking Tour of Steamboat Springs, which will take participants to historic sites in downtown Steamboat. Both tours will follow county protocols for social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, and spaces will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

At the museum, residents and visitors can tour Winter Carnival exhibits featuring the original light suit worn by the first Lighted Man, a full collection of Winter Carnival buttons and photos and memorabilia of the past 108 years of Winter Carnival.

“We have a long list of both in-person and online events for all to celebrate Winter Carnival safely this year,” Bannister said. “With the limits on spectators and gathering at events, we were eager to partner with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to focus on the rich 108-year history of the carnival.”

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