Parade packs Lincoln Ave.

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— Stephanie and Bill Faunce expected their 18-month-old son, Thomas, to sleep for much of the Fourth of July parade in downtown Steamboat Springs.

But halfway through the event, he was high atop his father's shoulders, watching every second of it.

"He's been wide awake and is just loving it," Stephanie Faunce said. "He's using every word he's ever learned."

From "truck" to "horsey," Thomas called out the words he knew as vehicles and animals and anything else he recognized paraded by, Stephanie said.

The Faunces have lived in Steamboat Springs for a year and said they enjoyed their first Fourth of July parade, with the crowds of people and variety of participants it attracted.

"We just love the idea that the entire community comes out and participates in this," Stephanie said.

In Sunday morning's sunshine, hundreds of people packed onto the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue to watch the street fill with fire engines, horses, floats, politicians, bikers, and more.

Chriss Parks and Stacey Gibbons dressed as clowns and rode unicycles down the street, tossing candy and being cheered by friends. Each brought their spouse and children -- all dressed as clowns -- to help carry on a tradition that began almost 20 years ago for Parks and almost 25 years ago for Gibbons, who no longer lives in Steamboat.

"It's just to kind of be a fun part of the community for me," Parks said.

All wore clown suits and red, white and blue face paint. For instance, Parks' face and shaved head was covered in white with blue stars, and his goatee and mouth were painted red.

Music and dance performances from the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, Emerald City Opera and Oak Street Performing Arts Company were crowd pleasers.

Morgan Harris, 18, who will play Danny in Perry-Mansfield's performance of "Grease" later this month, said he enjoyed the parade because it was a way to be a part of the small town for a day. Most of the camp participants live in big cities where "Fourth of July parades don't happen," Harris said.

The float for Emerald City Opera and the Oak Street Performing Arts Company featured dancers with long, colorful dresses performing two scenes from operas, including Emerald City's "La Boheme," which is showing Aug. 6 and 8. It gave people a taste of what both groups are up to and showed the fun side of opera -- which, as Emerald City Opera founder Keri Rusthoi pointed out, is far from the helmet-clad Vikings singing about death and jealousy that people often imagine.

On the sidelines, with their daughter Madison, Rob and Leslie Knutson, watched the parade, carrying on a tradition they've had for the more than 20 years they have lived in Steamboat for more than 20 years and watch the parade nearly every year. Leslie said she thinks the parade gets better each year, and Rob that the parade reminds residents and tourists alike of the area's Western heritage.

This year, Leslie said, 2-year-old Madison enjoyed the horses and balloons the most, but next year, "her favorite thing will be the candy, I'm sure," Leslie said.

Fred Kayser came to the parade with his wife and daughter, taking a break from the weekend's rodeo shows. Kayser competes in team roping.

Now, the family lives in Eaton, but Kayser grew up in Toponas, spending many Fourth of July celebrations in Yampa, where the holiday means a weekend of festivities. The family was considering an afternoon drive to Yampa to watch the polo.

After the parade, a crowd migrated to Eighth and Oak streets for the Pioneer Day Block Party, which was sponsored by the Tread of Pioneers Museum and Strings in the Mountains and featured ice cream, brass music and other festivities.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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