Steamboat Springs The strains of Christmas carols mixed with the sounds of happy children at Howelsen Hill Thursday night.
The 25th annual community holiday party served up plenty of holiday cheer to young and old.
The event is the only time of the year when people can cruise down Howelsen Hill on something other than skis or snowboards.
Parents and tots took advantage of the once-a-year opportunity. They trekked up the hill with big tubes and small tubes, black tubes and colorful tubes.
"It's fast," said 11-year-old Tyler Samlowski after a quick ride down the hill.
The key to cruising, he said, was to curl up into a ball.
Speed did not come so easy for everyone.
Scott Berntsen and his 5-year-old son, Lars, learned the third, fourth or even fifth time isn't always a charm.
The pair's attempts to coast down the hill were cut short when their tube ran out of gas before reaching the bottom.
"We've gone eight times and we still haven't made it," Scott Berntsen said with a smile.
Ninth time's a charm?
Father and son climbed the hill for one more shot at tubing triumph.
Parents like Dawn Lochridge stood at the top of the hill and watched their children plod up the incline, careen down the snowy slope and repeat.
Thursday night was 5-year-old Danny Lochridge's second holiday community party.
"We had so much fun last year," she said.
Members of the Howelsen Hill Ski Patrol looked out for tubers' safety.
They stood at the bottom of the tubing hill with giant-size beanbags to stop tubers.
Many children gradually hit the beanbags. A few slammed into the blockade.
Ski patrolman John Floyd remembers scrambling to catch tubers many years ago when they started their descent farther up the hill.
"It's really mellow now," he said.
But the absence of incline didn't appear to spoil anyone's fun Thursday night.
"The kids have a great time," Floyd said.
Partygoers kept their fingers and toes warm at Olympian Hall, where Santa Claus, carolers and cookies were waiting. Children from Christian Heritage School provided a live nativity. Juggling elves provided live entertainment.
The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department hosts the holiday party to officially usher in the Christmas season.
The lighting of the tree on Fetcher Tower is a traditional part of the event.
And Santa is always a celebrity. A steady stream of children waited in line at Olympian Hall to share their Christmas wishes.
Children who were a bit reluctant to sit on Santa's lap did not leave the jolly old elf completely in the dark.
"We'll send you an e-mail," one mother said. "Or maybe a fax."
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