Winter Carnival kicks off

Opening ceremonies at 5:30 tonight in Olympian Hall

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Today it begins.

Ninety-one years after Steamboat skiing pioneer Carl Howelsen started the event, the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival has more popularity, participants and events than ever.

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which hosts Winter Carnival year after year and raises funds for its program through the event, insists the enduring popularity is because of the "overwhelming support of the entire community," SSWSC Executive Director Rick DeVos said.

The Winter Carnival begins with opening ceremonies at 5:30 p.m. today in Olympian Hall in the Howelsen Hill Lodge.

Steamboat Springs High School senior and SSWSC freestyle skier Patty Hanley will be honored as the Winter Carnival queen. Twelve girls in kindergarten or younger will be honored as the princesses, and longtime Steamboat residents and former competitive skiers Pat and Ruth McClelland will be honored as grand marshals.

After the hour-long ceremony inside Olympian Hall, the party will move outside, where the Lighted Man, Jon Banks, officially will declare the start of the 2004 Winter Carnival.

For about 60 years, the Lighted Man, played by different members of the same family, has opened the Winter Carnival celebration by skiing down the slope of Howelsen Hill adorned in hundreds of lights and shooting fireworks high into the air.

This year, spectators should expect to see a change in fireworks, Banks said. The changing availability of fireworks has required him to experiment with different kinds.

In years past, before a tried-and-true method was found to shoot the fireworks, Banks said The Lighted Man, played by his father, often burned holes in his clothes. Now Banks wears a fireproof suit.

The carnival continues Thursday with the first skiing and snowboarding events at Howelsen Hill. The cross country obstacle course is at 4:30 p.m., the first event of the day, followed by ski jumping and a halfpipe snowboarding event.

Winter Carnival events continue through Sunday.

All winter, skiing Steamboat residents and visitors have walked through Gondola Square noticing a 2004 Jeep Rubicon that the Winter Sports Club is raffling off. The drawing for the Jeep will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday at the "Night Extravaganza" at Howelsen Hill. Tickets are available at $25 per ticket or $100 for five. Tickets can be purchased at the Winter Sports Club office in Howelsen Hill Lodge.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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