Our View: A special event

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The Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival is still going strong nearly a century after it began.

The 92nd edition of the carnival kicks off tonight, and we want to encourage everyone to take part in the myriad events being offered. Winter Carnival isn't about tourism. It is about Steamboat Springs and the legacy of Carl Howelsen. It's about our Winter Sports Club and our youths. It's about celebrating our heritage and having fun. And it's about giving back.

When the first Winter Carnival was held in February 1914, it featured competition on Woodchuck Hill, where Colorado Mountain College now stands. The carnival was designed to give people a respite from the snow and cold and give them a reason to come off the ranch and gather with their neighbors in town. In the early days, Winter Carnival featured ski jumping, cross-country skiing and shooting competitions. Street events were added in the event's infancy, as was a parade.

More people live in town now, and there are fewer ranchers. But the Winter Carnival remains a celebration of our ranching and skiing heritage. And it remains a welcome respite, an opportunity to shake off the winter doldrums and have a little fun.

Part of what makes Winter Carnival so special is that though times have changed, many of the events have not. The carnival that kicks off today is not so different from the first carnival -- the 2005 show features ski jumping, a parade, cross-country skiing and the Muzzle Loading Biathlon.

Watching ski joring, the donkey jump or the diamond hitch parade is like watching history pass on Lincoln Avenue. For Steamboat natives, Winter Carnival is a signature event that is as important to the fabric of the community in the same way that Howelsen Hill, the Yampa River and Rabbit Ears Pass are.

The Winter Carnival has evolved through the years to include events such as fiery hoop jumping, the Lighted Man, Gelandesprung jumping, the telemark revival, bicycle racing on snow, tubing parties, a pancake breakfast and other events. The combination of new and old keeps the carnival fresh and makes it unique -- there simply isn't anything like it anywhere.

The best part of Winter Carnival is that it goes to support a terrific cause that also is uniquely Steamboat -- the Winter Sports Club. A $7 button is all that is needed to attend Winter Carnival events. Proceeds from the sales go directly to the club to help fund the training of young athletes. Without the carnival, many families simply could not afford for their children to compete with the club.

Last year, more than 4,000 Winter Carnival buttons were sold, raising $30,000 for the club. The goal is to top that number this year.

Winter Carnival is a terrific way to support and celebrate our heritage. So whether you have been here for a lifetime or are new to the area, we encourage you to buy a button and see some of the shows. Doing so helps sustain the Winter Sports Club as well as our way of life.

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