Steamboat Springs It was the first Christmas in decades that Barbara De Vries didn’t have to cook a holiday turkey.
Instead, on Saturday afternoon, she sat at a round table draped in red at the Steamboat Springs Community Center with several friends she had run into at the annual Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors Community Christmas Dinner.
Although her family members went to another city for Christmas, she was surrounded by familiar faces from her more than 40 years in Steamboat Springs.
“This is what community should be,” she said.
The dinner featured a buffet of comfort foods donated by local Realtors and community members, and plenty of spirited conversation.
Event organizer Peggy Wolfe said she expected to serve more than 500 people before the dinner ended at 6 p.m.
Live holiday music from local musicians drifted over the heads of the diners, many of who donned Santa Claus hats or festive clothing.
Bob Sawer, a longtime Steamboat Springs resident, wore a blue Santa hat in honor of the Elvis Presley song “Blue Christmas.”
“The best thing is you see people you haven’t seen in years,” Sawer said about the dinner. “Or you see people you saw here last year. It’s like a family reunion.”
He attended the event with his brother, Craig resident Bill Sawer, who said the dinner is the best meal he’ll have all year.
The two exchanged small gifts — a rock ’n’ roll trivia calendar and a framed photo of the Yampa River — as they finished their desserts, all donated by the community.
Beverly Glenn, a Realtor working in the kitchen during the dinner, said the donations still were rolling in.
She said an older woman had just dropped off a homemade pie before returning home to cook dinner for her own family.
Wolfe said the Board of Realtors was overwhelmed by the response of the community, including full-time residents and second-home owners.
“What it says is that Steamboat Springs is made of families, of people, who care about one another,” Wolfe said. “They want to be a part of the community and make it better than it is.”
Donations also came from several restaurants, including Steamboat Smokehouse, The Tugboat Grill & Pub, The Egg & I and Slopeside Bar and Grill. Wolfe said she was turning down volunteers to help Saturday.
“People who are attracted to Steamboat have this certain characteristic of caring for others,” she said.
Steamboat resident Zach Baker said he might prefer the community dinner to a family affair.
“It’s sharing good times with others,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s better to spend the holidays with the community than with family. The holidays are stressful, and I’d rather see my family the rest of the year during not-so-stressful times.”
And it’s hard to be stressed out when one of several young children wearing antler headbands kindly asks to clear away your plate that once held ham, turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce.
“We’re in an economic downturn,” Bill Sawer said. “But you can’t tell it by the people here.”
Wolfe said her favorite part of the event is the atmosphere in the main room of the community center, where she said she could feel the warmth and energy of the holiday spirit.
“Instead of sitting at home and maybe eating a microwave meal, they can be here and be part of a group that’s the family of Steamboat,” she said.