Olympic send-off planned for Feb. 5 in Steamboat

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In less than a month, the best athletes winter sports has to offer will meet in the competitive venues that surround Vancouver, British Columbia. And before those top athletes leave on their Olympic journey, Steamboat Springs plans to throw them one of the biggest parties our town has ever seen.

The event will include Olympic stars, fireworks and a heart-stopping aerials show.

Organizers expect hometown energy — the kind that comes from a community that has been a part of the Olympic tradition since John Steele became the first Steamboat Olympian in 1932 — to fuel the night.

“Our goal is to bring everybody in the community together to celebrate Steamboat Springs’ Olympic heritage, as well as send this year’s athletes off in style,” said Andy Wirth, president of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s board of directors and senior vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

The 2010 Olympic Send-off & Community Celebration is Feb. 5 and will be incorporated into the 97th annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival. The event will be in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs adjacent to the Routt County Courthouse.

Wirth said Lincoln Avenue will be closed to traffic for the event, which will feature athletes named to Olympic teams, as well as network affiliate anchors and officials from state and federal government. Wirth estimates that the send-off will draw about 7,500 people.

“Anytime you bring 5,000 people or more to downtown, it’s exciting,” said Tracy Barnett, program manager for Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.

The start time hasn’t been set as Steamboat Ski Area awaits word from a media personality who is expected to act as master of ceremonies. But Wirth expects the events to begin between 6 and 6:30 p.m.

Flying Aces Productions also will bring its high-flying act to town. Kris “Fuzz” Feddersen, a former Steam­boat Springs Olympian, is the CEO of the company and is sure to bring some local flavor. The performers, who include current and former aerials and moguls skiers, will launch themselves into the night sky using trampolines. Wirth said they would perform crowd-pleasing acrobatic tricks.

The celebration also will include the lighting of a 20-foot-tall “community cauldron” that will remain on the courthouse lawn through the 2010 Olympics. The cauldron will be ignited daily from 5 to 9 p.m. while Steamboat Spring athletes are competing in Vancouver.

The event will be topped off with fireworks launched from the rooftop of the courthouse and choreographed with a video being produced by Ski Corp.

Barnett said this is truly a community effort with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and local businesses working together to make the celebration a success. Barnett said the send-off would be a perfect opportunity for locals and visitors to come out and support local Olympic athletes and at the same time support the downtown business community.

“We are hoping that people will come down and check out the send-off and while they are here take advantage of the businesses that are downtown,” she said.

Steamboat has hosted two other Olympic send-offs in recent memory. In 2002, the event drew 5,000 people downtown before the Olympics in Salt Lake City, and in 2006 an estimated 10,000 people showed up at the rodeo grounds for a send-off for the Olympics in Turin, Italy. The event was anchored by a concert by Hootie & the Blowfish.

“The 2002 Olympic send-off was one of the proudest moments in my career,” Wirth said.

He said that he was proud of how the community pulled together after 9/11 and that he was proud of the support Steamboat showed that year.

This year’s Olympic send-off is expected to cost about $50,000. Wirth said the event already has gotten support from Sprint, the Chamber and the ski area. However, organizers still are trying to raise close to $25,000 to cover the rest of the expenses for the event.

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