Youth Sports Alliance to host parade celebrating local Paralympians and Olympians
The Youth Sports Alliance is hosting a Paralympic and Olympic parade on Friday to celebrate Park City’s athletes who competed in the Pyeongchang Winter Games. In an interview on Monday, YSA representatives said more than 40 Olympic and Paralympic athletes will walk or ride in floats down Main Street, with Nordic combined gold and silver medalist Billy Demong as the grand marshal.
Demong, a five-time Olympian who lives in town, was selected in part because he represents the generation that inspired many of today’s Olympians.
According to Emily Fisher, executive director of the Youth Sports Alliance, Demong, who last competed in the 2014 Games, helped inspire local jumper Will Rhoads.
“And (Demong) can inspire the next generation on Friday,” she said.
Olympians who competed in Pyeongchang will include alpine skier Ted Ligety, freeskier Brita Sigourney, Nordic jumpers Kevin Bickner, Abby Ringquist and Will Rhoads, freestyle skiers Madison Olsen and Morgan Schild, alpine skier Megan McJames and freeskier McRae Williams, among others.
A host of high-profile former Olympians will also be in attendance, such as speedskater Eric Heiden, swimmer Summer Sanders Schlopy, bobsledder Valerie Fleming.
The parade is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and go down Main Street to the Town Lift Plaza, where there will be presentations, interviews and speeches on stage, including a speech by Mayor Andy Beerman. Tom Kelly, vice president of communications at U.S. Ski and Snowboard, will be the emcee. After the presentations, athletes will sign autographs. Parade-goers can purchase food (donated by Bridge Cafe and Grill) and drinks (including beer from Red Rock Brewing) at an accompanying beverage garden.
Attendees are encouraged to wear their Olympic memorabilia — from the iconic berets of the 2002 Winter Games, to pins. There will also be small flags provided by the YSA with the Park City Nation logo on it, representing all the athletes who competed in the 2018 Winter Games with ties to Park City.
The flags are provided both to create an atmosphere of fanfare and to serve as a canvas for autographs.
The parade itself will consist of roughly 10 “floats,” though their purpose will be more functional than decorative or celebratory, and will likely be cars and pickups meant to give athletes a break from walking. According to Fisher, the walking is important, especially to athletes like 1964 gold medal swimmer Dick Roth, who Fisher said enjoys putting a gold medal around kids’ necks.
“He wants to be close to them and wants them to be close to the medal and feel that experience and be motivated for themselves and know it’s possible,” Fisher said. “That’s why we don’t push the floats as much, we like the athletes to be able to interact with the crowd and with those children and they like to do that, too.”
In essence, the event is about celebrating the Olympic culture in Park City, and bringing the community closer to its athletes. And it’s precisely Park City’s intimate relationship with the Olympics that gives the YSA confidence that people will turn out regardless of how many athletes won medals this year.
“The consolidation of Olympians both current, past and future is probably bigger arguably than any other town this size in the world,” said Trace Worthington, YSA president. “But you look at this town and it’s part of the culture here, and it’s a celebration of success. I don’t think people around this town count medals as much as maybe the broader America does.”
Fisher said she expects the community to come out and celebrate because the athletes are not only figures on a screen, but neighbors, friends and babysitters.
Furthermore, the community knows how hard it is to become an Olympian, Worthington said, because so many local institutions play a role in making it happen.
“(Athletes) are out of high school one year and say, ‘I want to be an Olympian, and four years later they go to the Olympics and get sixth,” Worthington said. “The sixth best person on the entire planet. That’s huge; it’s a big deal. But I mean, people understand here in this community more of that work, the ethic that it takes, and the funding which is a lot, too.”
Officials said right now their biggest hope is for sunshine.
After the parade, there will be a free concert featuring Citizen Cope as part of the Thin Air Festival.
City officials encourage attendees to use the free transit system or carpool to Main Street, which will close for the parade starting at 4 p.m. and will reopen around 6:30 p.m.
According to a statement from the city, paid parking will be available on Main before and after the parade, as well as at China Bridge and other public lots. There will be free overflow parking at Deer Valley Resort’s lots five and six. Park City Mountain Resort’s base area will also serve as overflow parking, as will Canyons Village’s Cabriolet lot, the Park City High School parking lot and the Treasure Mountain Junior High School parking lot.
“All event parking in these lots is restricted to the hours from 4:30 p.m. to midnight,” the statement read.
The school lots will open at 3 p.m. and resort lots at 4 p.m. There will be no overnight parking.
Buses will depart the overflow parking areas about every 20 minutes. Stops include: Deer Valley’s lots five and six, the Canyons Village near the 7-Eleven, Park City Mountain Base Area (near the skating rink), and Kearns Boulevard (near Treasure Mountain Junior High School and Park City High School).
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