Steamboat Springs With the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics a day away, Soda Creek Elementary School students were in full national spirit Thursday morning, only they weren’t all sporting Team USA’s red, white and blue.
As the lines of third, fourth and fifth graders marched from the school’s campus down Eighth and Seventh streets, across Lincoln Avenue and toward Howelsen Hill, they chanted.
And they screamed.
And, above all, they wore their emotions on their layers of sleeves, proudly barking out the namesakes of the countries that athletes worldwide will represent as they vie for podium spots at this year’s Winter Games.
“Here we go, Switzerland, here we go!” a small pack of fourth graders sang out.
“Let’s go, Germany, let’s go!” a group nearby shouted.
Up front, escorted by Soda Creek music teacher Jake Gasau, Tiffany Gebhardt’s third graders waved an Australian flag.
They were just a few of the 13 different Soda Creek classes, each representing a different country, with students waving authentic and hand-crafted flags in the air. They marched toward Howelsen Hill during the elementary version of the Parade of Nations.
This was something the school had only done once before, school PE teacher and one of the event organizers Erin Early said. When students arrived, the always recognizable Olympic Games theme song blared over the Howelsen Hill speakers with six former Steamboat Olympians waiting for the students on the carved-out snow stage.
“The students are so into it,” Early said. “I think it's because at such young ages, kids (in Steamboat) can go to different countries and compete or they know someone who did. It instills a sense of culture in them at a younger age, more than maybe another city or town.”
Five students were selected to come on stage and ask former Olympians Erin Simmons, Deb Armstrong, Brendan Doran, Chris Puckett, Todd Wilson and Greg Rawlings questions that ranged from how the Olympics changed their lives to what their dreams were outside of the Games.
Wilson was at a loss for words when asked how the Olympics changed his life. Armstrong — a former Olympic gold medalist — explained her current dream is simply to be a good mom.
Then, before marching back to campus, the dozens of students raised their voices in song. They sang "The Games Are Coming," a song picked from Gasau’s Olympic music curriculum.
There also was a bit of an educational component, Early said. Students were given their countries and flags a few weeks back, and their teachers gave them small history lessons on the nations, covering topics like athletes in this year’s Games or the countries’ different nationalities.
But more than anything, Thursday's event gave the Soda Creek students an opportunity to escape a classroom before the day's instruction cranked up and flaunt their worldwide support for the 2014 Olympic Games.
“It’s just cool,” Early said on the walk back to campus. “That was really, really cool.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll