The first time Stefka White attended the Steamboat Springs community Christmas dinner nearly a decade ago, she was covering the event for the Hayden Valley Press. Now a resident of Craig, White no longer works for the newspaper, but she hasn't missed a community dinner since.
Saturday, she and her husband, Mike, and their son, Nick, sat down to enjoy a feast of meat, stuffing, vegetables, bread and potatoes.
"It's a great place to be," White said. "It's like having a family."
The Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors sponsors the annual event, and many of its members volunteer as servers. The sense of community it creates was the reason Glenna Clark-Olmsted began the community dinner 14 years ago.
Saturday was the first time she attended the dinner only to eat, as she soaked in a room filled with laughter and music organized by Paul Hands.
"I wanted to make Christmas feel like Christmas," Clark-Olmsted said.
The community dinner has become such a tradition for Florida residents Howard and Alayne Miner that they plan their trips to Steamboat around the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. They've owned a condominium in Steamboat for 32 years and have "seen this place build up," Alayne Miner said. They arrive right before Thanksgiving and return to Florida shortly after Christmas.
Howard Miner, 86, is a certified ski instructor. He hit the slopes early Saturday morning to work up an appetite for the dinner. The couple planned to stay the full four hours.
"He'd rather be here than anywhere else," his wife said.
Judging by the smiles on the faces of people as they left the buffet line, everyone was happy to be sitting down to a delicious meal prepared and served by someone else.
"I like to not cook and come here," Leyda Perez said.
She was one of the early arrivals, with husband Ernesto and young children Jonathan and Bianca Perez.
A new feature of the event this year was giving gifts to children. The Hayden National Honor Society raised nearly $200 through concession-stand sales to buy gifts for Toys for Tots. Junior Alicia Hall was handing out the presents Saturday.
"It was really fun buying the gifts, getting things you know kids will like," Hall said. "It's nice giving gifts you know they might not have otherwise gotten."
A large dump truck sat in front of Donovan Ashcraft's seat. The 7-year-old and his brother Brandon, 6, were at their first community dinner. They said their favorite item of the day was the potatoes.
That should be good news to Realtor Harry Thompson, the designated potato server. Karen Hughes, the organizer of the dinner, said the Realtors embrace the event and do their part serving and preparing food.
The spirit of giving was strong Saturday among the line-up of Realtors serving in the buffet line.
Last year, the board of Realtors served 425 people. This year, Hughes estimated at least 425 people would pass through the Steamboat Springs Community Center doors for the free feast.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org