Good times roll at Steamboat’s Ski Mardi Gras
February 18, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Stepping along with a lively marching band rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In," about 50 people, costumed in feathers and jester hats and draped in strings of plastic beads, made their way through the sun-baked base area at Steamboat Ski Area.
Beads flew through the air while surprised onlookers gravitated toward the moving, glittering stream of purple, yellow and green, holding out their hands for goodies or gawking at the stilt walker and the unicycle rider.
Among the costumed crusaders were local high school students Hope Nelson and Christine Krentz, who were wearing feathered masks with a wingspan of about 2 feet.
It was their first year participating in the Ski Mardi Gras parade, which began in Ski Time Square and marched down the new promenade to Gondola Square led by a four-piece brass marching band.
"It's amazing what little beads can do for people," Nelson said. "It makes them so happy.
"It's nice to have some cultural things like this in Steamboat."
The crowning of this year's Ski Mardi Gras rex and queen, Mix and Karen Beauvais, followed the parade, and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk took to the new outdoor stage shortly after for a rowdy afternoon of New Orleans funk in Gondola Square while the smell of a crawfish boil wafted into the sky.
"It's just the ambiance of the whole celebration," said Mix Beauvais, dressed in a rock-star wig and glittery tie. "Everyone just wants to have a good time."
The official Ski Mardi Gras celebration is in its second year, but the parade has its roots in the 1980s.
And it was Mix Beauvais, then the director of marketing for Steamboat Ski Area, who started it all. Thirty years ago, thousands of New Orleans residents would travel to Steamboat during Mardi Gras on a group ski trip to escape the chaos of their home city.
Beauvais had the idea to get them all marching from The Tugboat Grill & Pub into Gondola Square, just like the parade goes today.
"Back then, it was mostly New Orleans people with us, and no one else really knew what was going on," he said.
But the tradition continued, even though Mix and Karen Beauvais traveled to New Orleans a few times for Fat Tuesday, joining with the Krewe of Endymion and partying in the Superdome.
The couple now owns Coldwell Banker Silver Oak, a local real estate agency.
"We're honored," Karen Beauvais said about the title, which was bestowed through a community-wide online survey that saw more than 500 votes. "We've been in Steamboat for 40 years, and we've done a lot of things in 40 years, but this is a real highlight."
Just before Dumpstaphunk took the stage, the pair was crowned rex and queen and each thanked the square full of people for the honor and the opportunity to represent the spirit of Steamboat.
And Mix Beauvais had two parting words before the music began:
"Let's party," he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com