Park City honors Olympic, Paralympic athletes with parade
Olympians and Paralympians of the past and present rode down Main Street
After a long, stressful season, Park City’s many Olympic and Paralympic athletes finally had some time to relax and celebrate.
Fifty-five Olympic and Paralympic athletes of the past and present with ties to Park City and Utah were honored in a parade down Main Street Friday evening. For some, like speedskater Casey Dawson and luger Ashley Farquharson, Park City is home. For others, it’s their adopted home while they train at the Olympic-caliber facilities in town.
“I think it’s pretty special that our town has so many Olympians that live here now,” Farquharson said. “So that we can put on an event like this and just really be able to come together as a community and celebrate a really special Olympics, especially after what we’ve been through the last two years.”
The parade was put on by the Youth Sports Alliance, and three athletes who got their start in their respective sports through the YSA were at the front of the parade: Dawson, Farquharson and Nordic combined athlete Jared Shumate. For Dawson, who won a bronze medal in the team pursuit in Beijing, Friday’s parade made everything come full circle.
“(In 2018), I was the one with the flag going around and having people sign my flag and everything,” Dawson said. “It’s cool, I get to be in the front of the parade, kind of my wildest dreams. It’s just awesome to represent Park City and kind of be a hometown hero, almost.”
Both Dawson and Farquharson credited the YSA for helping them become Olympic athletes in the first place. Programs like Get Out & Play have introduced local youth to new sports and help them take advantage of all Park City has to offer.
“They really inspired me to get into speedskating through Olympians helping out and coaching me to really push myself in the sport and go to the next level,” Dawson said. “Because I feel like without (Get Out & Play), I wouldn’t be here today.”
For Farquharson, Park City was one of the few places where learning to luge is even possible. The track at the Utah Olympic Park is only one of two in the U.S. that is used for competition. Farquharson tried it through the YSA and was hooked.
“They really supported me throughout my entire journey,” she said. “Even when I wasn’t a youth or a junior, they were checking on me and text me all the time and be, like, ‘We’re rooting for you.’ I think it’s a very special program, and we’re very lucky to live in a place that can fund that and support that.”
Friday’s parade also gave local youth the opportunity to meet Park City’s elite athletes in person instead of seeing them on a screen. Athletes were available for autographs following the parade and a few speeches from the likes of Dawson, Farquharson, silver medalist Colby Stevenson and more.
Luke Conneally, 12, and his brothers were in the large crowd that gathered on Main Street on Friday. Dawson was hoping to help inspire the next generation of athletes, and that rubbed off on kids like Conneally.
“It’s really exciting because I’m really excited by them to compete in things,” Conneally said. “Getting to see them in-person makes me realize that they’re real people, so I can do it, too.”
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