Helen Wheeler on front horse for the Diamond Hitch in 1928. The annual Diamond Hitch Parade will get back to its roots during this year’s celebration.

Helen Wheeler on front horse for the Diamond Hitch in 1928. The annual Diamond Hitch Parade will get back to its roots during this year’s celebration.

Winter Carnival 2013: Parade a staple of Winter Carnival


Fun facts and history of Steamboat Springs

■ Steamboat Springs’ first settler and town founder James Crawford moved his family here in 1875. He was impressed by the many springs, the beauty of the mountains, and was the first family to stay the winter in Steamboat.

■ The Ute Indians were summer residents of the area until they were moved to a reservation in Utah. The Aspen grove behind Old Town Hot Springs was an old Ute Indian burial ground. Yampa Valley is named after the Yampa plant, a staple of the Indian diet. (A cross between a carrot and an onion).

■ Brooklyn was the red light district with one unnamed street, five saloons, brothels and the like. Any drinking or carrying on was confined to the south side of the river.

■ The first skis were used as transportation and were called snowshoes even though they didn’t resemble traditional snowshoes, which were inadequate for travel in the deep snows. They were usually homemade and measured 8 to 12 feet long.

■ In 1913 Carl Howelsen, The Flying Norseman of Barnum & Bailey fame, arrived in Steamboat and showed people how to ski jump and cross-country race. During the 1917 Winter Carnival, the town honored the man who brought recreational skiing to the area by renaming Elk Pasture to Howelsen Hill.

■ Buddy Werner was the first American skier to pose a threat to the European ski racers of the time. Buddy was tragically killed in an avalanche in Switzerland. It took an act of Congress to change the name of the ski area from Storm Mountain to Mount Werner in his honor.

■ 1968 Olympian, Jim “Moose” Barrows, is famous for his crash in the downhill, which aired on the ABC Wide World of Sports introduction for years. The crash was spectacular and the narration said the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

■ Steamboat Springs was dubbed Ski Town USA in 1947 when The Associated Press ran an article describing the marching band on skis and the enthusiastic local ski community under the headline that proclaimed Steamboat Springs “Ski Town.” It was later that Mayor Bob Smith tagged “USA” onto the moniker in 1950 as a promotion for the Ski Bands’ trip to Chicago. The band paraded down Chicago’s Michigan Avenue on July 17 representing the Colorado Lions Club at the International Lions Club convention. Fifty-eight skiers were equipped with specially designed skis with four rollers, which allowed the band to slide forward on pavement but locked so they didn’t roll backward. Universal Studios made an 18 minute movie by that name in 1957 using local skiers.

Source: Steamboat Springs

Chamber Resort Association

Back in the early days of Routt County, skijoring was the thing to do. Whether behind a horse, sleigh or whatever pet could be wrangled, being pulled on skis beat pushing yourself.

But it was a lonely ride. One tow rope pulled only one person on skis.

Enter the diamond hitch.

“Well, there’s four of us, and we can make a hitch, and all four of us can get drug and not hit the horse,” Jo Semotan said about the thought process behind the innovation.

The hitch was a hit. So much so that it became a staple of the annual parade held during Winter Carnival.

And while entrants in the Winter Carnival Diamond Hitch Parade generally were encouraged to incorporate a hitch in the past, organizers for the 100th anniversary of the Winter Carnival want all groups participating this year to have at least one hitch.

The parade also will have a slew of Olympians and about 30 queens from past carnivals in attendance, said Cathy Wiedemer, a carnival organizer.

Semotan, who also is a former queen, is a member of the Ladies Recreation Club, a group started in 1924 that has been participating in the parade for many of those years.

The Ladies Recreation Club was one of the pioneers of the diamond hitch, according to “The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs” by Sureva Towler, and the club will have four women forming a hitch this year behind a sleigh drawn by a team of Belgian horses. Semotan will be tying the ropes herself.

Also vital to the parade is the Steamboat Springs High School Ski Band.

The Ski Band has participated in the parade since its inception in 1935 by then-band director Gerald McGuire. It lays claim to the title of world’s first ski band.

This year, the Ski Band will include more than 70 students marching on skis through downtown.

Jim Knapp, the current band director, said past members of the Ski Band are invited to join this year’s parade.

Those who want to participate can meet the band at 11 a.m. Feb. 10 at the beginning of the parade route. Past members are not expected to play but can walk behind the band.

Wendy Hicks is hoping to be able to join the band in some form when it marches down Lincoln Avenue for the 100th Winter Carnival.

In 1950, when Hicks was a member, the Steamboat Springs High School Ski Band represented Colorado at the Lions Club’s International Convention in Chicago.

The group of about 50 band members left Steamboat in two Trailways buses, Hicks said, and stopped first in Lincoln, Neb. It was so hot that they waited until the sun went down to complete the journey to Chicago, he said.

Hicks said the black-and-white set in the hotel room in Chicago was the first time he’d seen a TV. The group took sightseeing tours and explored some of the city during its nearly weeklong stay.

The band marched down Michigan Avenue on a hot summer day in July. Skis with rollers on the bottoms were specially made so the band could glide across the asphalt.

Band members were wearing their full uniforms, Hicks said, and one of the members playing a large horn was feeling the heat.

“All you got to do is get around this corner,” Hicks said they told him about reaching the end of the parade. “He just passed out right there.”

“It was quite an awesome trip,” Hicks said.

Ski Town USA owes a debt of gratitude to that trip. According to a fact sheet from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Springs was just Ski Town before USA was added to patches sewn on the Ski Band uniforms for the occasion.

Hicks’ daughter, Katrina, was a member of the Ski Band, and this year, his grandson, Rylan Russell, will be marching in the 100th Winter Carnival.

Anyone who would like to support the band can purchase a commemorative sticker in the design of the patch sewn onto the Ski Band’s uniforms. The stickers will be sold for $3 by Ski Band members and at Space Station in downtown Steamboat Springs. Proceeds benefit the Steamboat Springs High School band program. The Ski Band also always is looking for donations of ski bindings and boots, Knapp said. The band uses three-pin bindings and always has a need for larger size (10 or bigger) boots, he said. Anyone wishing to donate items can email jknapp@sssd.k12.co.us.


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