Iron River hosts homecoming parade for Nick Baumgartner
The gold medalist was welcomed with open arms during a parade and ceremony
IRON COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - U.S. Olympic gold medalist Nick Baumgartner returned to the U.P. Monday to a very warm welcome from his hometown.
He won gold Saturday in mixed snowboard cross after a heartbreaking individual finish just two days earlier.
With crowds gathering to greet him in Iron Mountain, Florence, and Crystal Falls before he got to the Iron River area, it’s clear what the 40-year-old snowboarder means to the community.
A hero’s welcome awaited Nick Baumgartner in Iron River as he showed off his gold medal to supporters. Crowds lined Genesee Street to show their appreciation.
“He is so deserving of this. He has been trying so hard for this. He did it. He’s bringing the Gold home,” said Kira Dallavalle, Iron River Hockey Association Vice President.
Baumgartner walked the parade with his dog, soaking in the love from fans. First responders from across the county escorted him. West Iron County Schools dismissed early Monday to prepare for this special community event. Baumgartner says he has received thousands of messages on social media, and he will read them all.
“I am going to read every single one of those messages because that is what helped me get through the tough times,” Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner says he spent 17 years chasing a gold medal and proudly shares it with the U.P. The gold medal winner says he wants to encourage kids to find what they love, and achieve it.
“Big dreams happen in small towns, and nothing is out of reach,” Dallavalle said.
Friends that know Baumgartner boast how he hasn’t changed since he was young.
“Nick was just like he is now. Outgoing, pleasant personality, just a heartwarming young man,” said Lisa Karwoski, Baumgartner’s former middle school teacher.
Baumgartner received a standing ovation from hundreds of supporters. Many stayed after the ceremony to talk to the gold medalist. Even with a gold medal, he still remembers his roots.
“Once a Wykon, always a Wykon!” Baumgartner exclaimed.
Now, this Wykon is home with his gold medal.
Baumgartner is the third Yooper to be a Winter Olympic Gold Medalist. Rod Paavola of Hancock and Weldy Olson of Marquette were on the gold medal-winning hockey team at the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley, now named Pallisades.
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