Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs My favorite portion of the Steamboat springs Winter Carnival Parade comes during the 45 minutes right before the parade begins. That’s when people are putting the final touches on their costumes and massive draft horses are being hitched to heavy sleighs that go to work every day feeding cattle.
Candice Jones patiently fielded my questions while she tied bright red pieces of yarn into the mane of a huge Belgian draft horse named Pat who stood 18 hands.
Jones walked right up to Pat’s hind quarters to attach a colorful bow to his tail. I was taught from an early age never to approach a strange horse from behind, but Candice and Pat are old friends, so I guess he tolerates her.
Chase Fix told me Pat was the smaller member of a two-horse team that was assigned the honor of pulling the grand marshals on Sunday. Pat tips the scales at 1,500 pounds, but the other horse is closer to a ton.
A half-block away, I seized the opportunity to mingle with a group of old time Yampa and Elk river valley ranch families, including my old friends the Doug and Adele Carlson family. I also introduced myself to the parents of a young cowgirl, Josie Meyring, and Levi Allen after taking photographs of them skiing up and down the street in cowboy hats and chaps.
Farther up the street, Ann Kvols was hitching the smallest horse in the parade to a tiny pony cart.
I told big Mike Weber that as a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, I was uncomfortable with his fur hat, but he reassured me that the badger perched on his noggin was salvaged road kill. How many people do you know who make his or her own clothing from road kill?
Nearby, on Lincoln Avenue, Jax Larsen was saddling up a stick horse — you don’t have to feed them, you don’t have any vet bills to pay, and you sure don’t have to shovel up any horse apples from a hobby horse.
Rancher Doug Monger had one of the most homespun entries in the parade. He was driving a pair of Belgian draft horses while standing in Art Hudspeth’s old chariot (made from a cutoff oil drum) left from the days when chariot racing was a big part of Winter Carnival. It was attached to a makeshift sled mounted with the most luxurious seating in the entire parade. It appeared that Monger had taken the bench seats out of several minivans and bolted them to his sleigh.
Improvisation is just as traditional as anything else that takes place at the annual Winter Carnival.
Finally, I have to salute Scott Flower, who was looking dapper in a top hat while he managed the parade and called out each entry in the order they were slated to travel down Lincoln Avenue.
For me, Winter Carnival has always been about the people (and horses) who carry on a grand tradition.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com