A hot tradition

Steamboat Springs' past and present mingle for the Fourth

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When Benita Bristol was growing up in Stagecoach in the late 1920s, she and her siblings prayed that every Fourth of July would bring rain.

"I grew up in the country, of course, and we were always cutting alfalfa on July Fourth," Bristol said. "It was always a highlight to come to town."

When it did rain, which meant the alfalfa could not be cut, the family would dress in their finest clothes and head into town in an old reel truck, Bristol said.

"I can't remember if it was a nickel or dime we had to spend on games along Main Street and penny candy," Bristol recalled.

Over the years, Bristol has witnessed how the growth in Routt County has affected traditions like the fourth of July.

Routt County in the late 1920s solely was a ranching and farming community, no tourists visited from around the country or other areas of Colorado.

Annabeth Light Lockhart, daughter of Clarence Light of F.M. Light and Sons, said it wasn't until U.S. 40 was built in the 1930s that summer became the town's largest tourist season.

"That's when my father put up road signs," Lockhart said.

Lockhart agreed that not much has changed.

"There was always fireworks, a parade, the rodeo and family picnics," Lockhart said.

But the days of cranking the ice cream maker handle and buying fireworks from the store without laws and restrictions are long gone.

"There's just a lot more activities. It's progress. You can't be stagnant," Bristol said. "They'd always take us to the rodeo and we'd watch the parade on Main Street."

Lockhart and her family still ride in the annual July Fourth parade wearing cowboy hats and other Western styles to advertise the business.

Although she said decorations were not as elaborate in those days, her family still enjoyed the town celebrations during the patriotic holiday.

"We maybe got a hot dog somewhere along the street, but we didn't have all the stores and restaurants there are now," Bristol said.

While F.M. Light and Sons, Harwig's Saddle Shop and the Chief Plaza Theater all existed in Steamboat during the 1920s, not many other stores still remain today as part of Lincoln Avenue.

Today, visitors and locals can take in a number of different traditional activities on July Fourth (pancake breakfast, rodeo, parade, cattle drive), while experiencing new traditions (block parties, music festivals, gallery exhibits and exercise competitions).

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association continues a Steamboat tradition with a rodeo series throughout the week.

Lockhart said the traditional pancake breakfast didn't exist when she was growing up but it was around 50 years ago.

Today, Lockhart said she rides in the parade, attends the rodeo and still gathers for family picnics nearly 80 years later.

"Come to think of it, it's just gotten bigger," Lockhart said.

A schedule of events

July 3:

Denver Musician Michael Stanwood and his Yeahbut Shoehead Band play music for children at 11 a.m. at the Strings in the Mountains performing arts tent in Torian Plum Plaza.

The String Cheese Incident, Blues Traveler and Israel Vibration and the Roots Radics Band at 2 p.m. at Headwall at the Steamboat Ski Area.

July 4:

Steamboat Springs Lion's Club sponsors a free pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. at the community center.

Parks and Recreation present the Steamboat Sprint, a 400-yard dash down Main Street prior to the parade. Registration is on Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue. Cost is $3 for every entry, divisions in age vary.

The 98th annual Cowboy Round-Up Days present the Vectra Bank Cowboy Round-Up Days Parade at 10 a.m. on Lincoln Avenue; the True Value Country Showdown at 1 p.m. on the Courthouse Lawn; the PRCA Pro Rodeo at 7 p.m. at Howelsen Hill's Brent Romick Rodeo Arena and the First National fireworks display at sundown at Howelsen Hill.

Tread of Pioneers Museum presents a Pioneer Day Block Party with free hot dogs, a barber shop quartet, a fire truck for children to tour and "Routt beer floats" following the parade.

The String Cheese Incident, Ben Harper and the Charlie Hunter Quartet at 2 p.m. at Headwall at the Steamboat Ski Area.

The Denver Brass Band performs for free from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the Courthouse Lawn.

Two artists, Diane Cionni and Mark Nelson, exhibit works from 6 to 8 p.m. at Mad Creek Gallery.

July 5:

The Dahlia Quartet perform from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the Yampa River Botanic Park for free as part of Strings in the Mountains Music on the Green summer series.

Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp Youth Festival begins with performances in jazz, modern and ballet dance in "Peter Pan" at 7:30 p.m in the Julie Harris Theater.

"Mischief to Magical" features blues, jazz, hymn, a pirate song and "Trout" at 7 p.m. in the Strings performing arts tent in Torian Plum Plaza.

PRCA Pro Rodeo at 7:30 p.m. at Howelsen Hill's Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

July 6:

Soda Creek Western Mercantile Cattle Drive at 3 p.m. on Lincoln Avenue followed by a cowboy barbecue and authentic cowboy poetry and music at Howelsen Hill's Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

Strings in the Mountains brings a Different Tempo series with Brent Rowan and Friends, Mac McAnally and Wendy Waldman at 8 p.m. in the Strings tent in Torian Plum Plaza.

PRCA Pro Rodeo at 7:30 p.m. at Howelsen Hill's Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

July 7:

Club, Fire and Dance present a circus arts festival from 10:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. on 10th Street and Lincoln Avenue featuring circus arts workshops and performances by jugglers, musicians, dancers and a stilt walker for the family. Adult- and teen-oriented musicians, drummers and fire performances will begin at sundown.

Strings in the Mountains presents High Country Garden Tour from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning at the Strings tent.

PRCA Pro Rodeo at 7:30 p.m. at Howelsen Hill's Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

Strings in the Mountains presents "From Waltzes to Ragtime," a compilation of chamber music, at 8 p.m. in the Strings tent. Verne Jundquist will narrate "L'Histoire du Soldat" (A Soldier's Tale) by Igor Stravinsky.

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