John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Pull out the streamers, balloons and noisemakers, Steamboat Springs: It’s time to throw a party.
This isn’t just any weekend bash. No, this get-together has taken years of planning that started long before the guests of honor were even born. It was planned in places such as Salt Lake City; Turin, Italy; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The town of Steamboat Springs has been waiting for this gathering since Carl Howelsen first introduced our valley to the excitement of ski jumping. This party will celebrate a tradition that was started when a guy named John Steele first opened our eyes to the magic of the Olympics and began a tradition that has been carried by the generations of Olympic athletes who have called this town their home.
Sure, we have celebrated the success of athletes such as Nelson Carmichael, Shannon Dunn and Travis Mayer — great athletes who whetted our appetite for Olympic hardware.
But this year, we were treated to a seven-course meal, a smorgasbord of epic proportions, a never-ending Las Vegas buffet.
Thanks to two hometown boys who grew up in the shadows of Howelsen Hill, another this town adopted with open arms when he came here as a young man, and one who spent a winter training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club before Salt Lake City, we have a good reason to throw this Olympic-size party, and everyone is invited.
This Friday, we will close down Lincoln Avenue for a parade of champions, and we will roll out the stage one more time and prove that there is no place on earth that can match Steamboat’s Olympic spirit.
This party will be a chance to honor Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota and allow them to enjoy the glow of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It will be a chance for these athletes to share their success in the town that helped spark their Olympic dreams.
These are the same athletes we have watched and cheered for since they were old enough to take flight in the Wednesday Night Jump Series, the same athletes we’ve gotten to know throughout the years through regional and national events on the jumps that overlook downtown Steamboat.
This Friday, the community that has supported these athletes, and all the athletes who traveled to Canada this winter, will come out for a party, a celebration it has been anticipating for decades.
This party is Steamboat’s chance to tip its hat to our own long-standing Olympic traditions and, at the same time, inspire the next generation of Olympic stars who will be standing in the crowd and dreaming of the day there will be a party honoring their accomplishments.
Sure, we are celebrating the fact that our Olympic athletes won medals, but if you live in Steamboat Springs, you know this party is about so much more.