Gather to give thanks at community dinner

Routt County United Way, Vectra Bank sponsor annual free feast in which residents donated the food

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Last year, more than 400 people jammed into the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Thanksgiving Day for a holiday meal with all of the fixings.

This year, just as many people or more are expected to turn out for the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Routt County United Way and Vectra Bank host the free dinner.

There will be 18 turkeys for the meal, along with 18 super-size portions of stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls and more. For dessert, diners can choose from a whole table filled with homemade pies.

Residents have donated all the food, said Millie Beall, executive director of Routt County United Way.

"We're actually turning away help at the moment, which is wonderful," Beall said. "There are so many people who make this happen."

In addition to the volunteers who prepare food for the meal, there will be between 15 and 20 people helping during the meal at any given time to serve food, clean up tables and more.

Several musicians will provide a mixture of flute, violin and piano music throughout the meal.

The executive chef for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., Liz Wahl, comes with a crew an hour before the dinner is served each year. With sharp knives, the group carves the turkeys and sets up the buffet.

Beall has been involved with the dinner since she started working at United Way four years ago. This is the first year Vectra Bank has been involved, and Beall said the bank's help has been invaluable.

The outpouring of help from the community is always encouraging, Beall said. Parents often bring their children to serve or make a dish to teach them the importance of helping others, she said. Many people make it a tradition to volunteer each year.

"It says that we are a very giving community, a community that steps up to the plate when asked," Beall said. "We all have something in common. We're all in this little piece of the world together, in our little valley."

The dinner is open to everyone. Some people come because they're hungry. Some people come because they don't have family with whom to share the holiday. The event is popular among resort workers, some of whom haven't started their full-time jobs.

"It's for anybody who wants to come," she said. "There's a real camaraderie there. Everybody sits together. It's festive; there's a lot of good food."

Beall said she's not worried about running out of food, but that if more people come this year, the dinner's hours might have to be expanded in the future.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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