Steamboat’s Olympic Send-Off celebrates 15 local athletes who will represent the U.S. at the 2018 Winter Games | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s Olympic Send-Off celebrates 15 local athletes who will represent the U.S. at the 2018 Winter Games

U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team member and gold medalist Billy Demong, middle, stands on the flower ceremony podium with his teammate Johnny Spillane, left, who won the silver, and Austrian skier Bernhard Gruber, who finished third in the race.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — "During some of the first Olympic Games, countries stopped what they were doing; they stopped war to go to the Games," said Billy Kidd, who competed at his first Olympic Games at the age of 20 in 1964 and won a silver medal and then made the U.S. Team again in 1968. "It is such an exciting time. Even people who don't watch sports at all will follow it, they will read about it and cheer for their country's team. When we watch, we feel part of the U.S. team."

On Saturday, Steamboat Ski Resort will host a 2018 Olympian Send-Off that celebrates this community's strong Olympics connection as the city in North America that has produced the most Winter Olympians — 88 and counting.

"If you're from Steamboat, you're from the town that's produced Olympians like Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane – you've got it from the air you breathe and the water you drink to win gold and silver medals in the Olympics," Kidd said.

The celebration will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Gondola Square at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

"It brings together the ranchers and people who don't even ski or snowboard,” Kidd said. “The whole town comes together to show the athletes headed to the 2018 Winter Olympics that the whole town – in all of its history and positive energy – will be with them when they get to the Olympics."

It will also be a time for locals and visitors to welcome back over 20 past Olympic medalists like Kidd, Nelson Carmichael and Johnny Spillane and to sendoff the 15 Olympians who will represent Steamboat Springs and the U.S. in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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"It honors all our Olympians; those athletes who competed well but were not selected, and all of our current athletes at the SSWSC who are inspired to dream that audacious dream of being an Olympian," Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said. "Training, competing, persevering for years, showing up every day, giving their very best, all of these athletes have represented themselves and our community with pride and persistence."

The Olympian Celebration and Send-Off festivities will also include the famed Steamboat Springs High School Skiing Band, who will provide music for the on-snow flag presentation before past and present Steamboat Olympians take the stage. In addition, several dignitaries, along with a big screen television, music and videos, will accent the public celebration.

"The possibilities of the Games are just so exciting," Kidd said. "For these kids in Steamboat, this will be an opportunity of a lifetime. If they can have their best performance when it counts the most and win a medal – when they put that medal around your neck and the national anthem is sung — wow there's just no other feeling like that."

Following the stage events, a meet-and-greet session will give fans and supporters an opportunity share congratulatory messages, get autographs and have photos taken with several 2018 Steamboat Olympians and past Olympians.

The finale of the event includes the lighting of the 15-foot-tall Steamboat Cauldron, which will burn throughout the 2018 Winter Games.

"Why have we produced more Winter Olympians than any other town in North America? It is because we are developing great people with the strength and fortitude to achieve their dreams," Boyne said. "For our Olympians in South Korea, compete to the best of your ability and enjoy the ride. Win or lose, you are champions to all of us."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

If you go:

What: 2018 Olympian Send-Off

When: 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27

Where: Gondola Base, Steamboat Ski Area