Blond brothers Carter and Kyle Kounovsky wandered Wal-Mart aisles Thursday afternoon with school supply lists in hand and a shopping cart nearby.
Shelves of pencils, markers, paper, binders, glue and myriad other supplies made choices difficult and progress slow.
Nancy Kounovsky, their mother, manned the cart and inspected each of the items Carter and Kyle dumped in by the handfuls before going off in search of more.
The Kounovskys prefer to do their school-supply shopping at least a week before classes begin, when aisles are less crowded and the panic of a new academic year has yet to grab hold of sun-tanned children.
"We're trying to avoid the rush as much as possible," Nancy Kounovsky said.
They weren't alone.
Families all over Routt County have begun the annual rite of passage that is back-to-school shopping
And while many parents seemed excited for the fall quarter to begin, most children didn't share that enthusiasm.
"I'm kind of excited," an unexcited Kyle Kounovsky said. Kyle, who will be a fifth-grader at Strawberry Park Elementary School, found at least one thing to look forward to.
"The only thing I like is that I'm going to get a nice teacher," he said. "But the fifth grade is going to be harder (than fourth grade)."
Soon-to-be-seventh-grader Amanda Willman shopped for supplies with her mother. Amanda, who will attend Soroco Middle School, said she had a mellow summer, during which she mostly rode her bicycle with friends. Is she excited for the new school year?
"Yeah, I guess," she said.
Some parents, such as Heather Blake, shopped for school supplies without their kids.
"This is the first year I'm doing it without my kids," Blake said. "It's less stressful."
Blake's two sons, eighth-grader Derek and fourth-grader Devin, didn't mind being excluded, she said.
"I keep it all pretty basic," Blake said, referring to the neutral-colored binders and folders she knew her sons would approve of.
Several retailers, including Wal-Mart, Pilot Office Supply, City Market and Safeway, are stocked with back to school merchandise. Some of the stores also carry supply lists specified for local schools and grade levels.
Steamboat schools start the 2003-04 school year Aug. 25.
School begins Aug. 27 for South Routt School District students and Sept. 2 for Hayden School District students.