Steamboat Springs Last year, Jo Stanko drove a tractor down Lincoln Avenue for the Fourth of July parade. This year, as Jo and her husband, Jim, are the grand marshals of the parade, she's not sure what will be their ride.
The Stankos were selected as the grand marshals of the parade which begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday for their commitment to the recreational, historical and agricultural facets of the community. As longtime ranchers, it seems suiting that they will participate in one of Steamboat's oldest traditions.
The Stankos' ranch on Twentymile Road has been in the Stanko family since 1907. They moved to the ranch in 1974 and plan to have their ranch continue its agricultural tradition long after their time.
The Stankos put one of their 140-acre meadows in a conservancy easement to ensure that the land can never be divided or used for anything not agriculturally based. Jo Stanko said they are hoping their son Pat will eventually return to the valley to take over the ranch.
The couple strives to teach others how agriculture is a basis to life and all commerce.
"People trading in Wall Street with papers in their hands are basically all selling products from agriculture, mining or lumber," Jo Stanko said.
Seeing agriculture as a foundation to living is essential, she said, especially to people isolated from the country way of life. Jo Stanko belongs to the Community Agricultural Alliance, among other organizations, which finds ways to keep agriculture viable in the recreational atmosphere of Steamboat Springs.
She also contributed to the publication of the alliance's Yampa Valley almanac project that educates residents and visitors about seasonal agricultural practices and traditions, high-altitude gardening, local ecology, recipes, wildlife migration, weather and cultural lore specific to the valley.
The couple's experience in education is deeply entwined to their ability to convey to people the importance of agriculture. Jo Stanko was a teacher in the Steamboat Springs School District for 25 years and said she would bring her students out to the ranch one to three times a year for them to see the connection of agriculture to everyday life.
Jim Stanko teaches, too, but works mostly to preserve the history of the area. He teaches Colorado history at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus. He co-authored "The Historical Guide to Routt County" and served as president of the museum board when the Tread of Pioneers Museum was established and opened to the public year-round.