Exuberance at events

Winter Carnival brings out the kid in residents, visitors

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More than 200 children on skis lined up Saturday for their chance to grab a rope and be towed down snow-covered Lincoln Avenue behind a galloping horse.

Some had looks of concentration on their faces. Others had exuberant smiles and raised their arms in victory at the finish line.

The events appeared to be just as fun for the horses and riders pulling the skiers.

"I'm the one that's done it for 56 years," said Patsy Wilhelm, who, with her steed Jackson, was among ranchers and their horses lending Western character, not to mention horsepower, to the annual Winter Carnival event.

"For five years, I've been saying, 'Just one more year,'" she said. "But the kid in me comes to race."

Five blocks of Lincoln Avenue were closed off for about three hours Saturday morning for street events, which have been a Winter Carnival tradition for the past 91 years.

The events included a children's three-legged ski race and the Dog and Dad Dash, featuring children 5 and younger being pulled in sleds or toboggans by their dads or pet dogs.

The most popular events by far were those involving horses pulling skiers who jumped off ramps, navigated a slalom course and sped as fast as they could down the street.

Horses even pulled adults sitting on shovels.

"I love to watch the kids. ... It's so much fun. They are so tough," said Peggy Filer, a Steamboat Springs resident who was among spectators cheering for the young skiers.

Before each child's turn, Wilhelm and other riders ask them how fast they wanted to race. Children's answers range from slow to "as fast as you can go," Wilhelm said.

"Then you just kind of watch them," she said.

Winter Carnival street events attract more people every year. That's why the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, which sponsors the street events in conjunction with First National Bank of Steamboat Springs, is stepping up safety measures with more fencing and patrols to keep spectators off the streets.

"We're just trying to make it safe for horses and riders so they can concentrate on what they are doing and not worry about people in the street," Chamber spokeswoman Riley Polumbus said.

Although many spectators just happened to schedule their winter vacation during Winter Carnival, others, such as Kristy and Brendon Peach of Johnstown, visited specifically to enjoy the events.

"We wanted to go somewhere this weekend, and this is the only place that had something going on," Kristy Peach said.

Overall, Winter Carnival is attracting more and more regular visitors, Polumbus said.

"People have discovered this weekend, and they know, between the night show and street events, it's spectator friendly," she said.

Street events will continue today with the children's skijoring ring and spear competition at 9 a.m., the obstacle course competition at 9:30 a.m., the skijoring street slalom at 10 a.m., the 25-yard dash at 10:20 a.m., the skijoring donkey jump at 10:25 a.m. and the adult shovel race at 11 a.m.

The Winter Carnival Diamond Hitch Parade will follow street events at 11:30 a.m.

Other Winter Carnival events include chariot races at 1 p.m. at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena and the Parent-Child Downhill from 1 to 2 p.m. at Howelsen Hill.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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