On Thursday afternoon, the delicious smells of turkey, mashed potatoes and bread rolls will waft through the homes of Americans all over the country. While many are gathering in the homes of family and friends, the Summit County Rotary Club wants to remind everyone that the mountain community is like family, too.
Every year, the Rotary Club organizes a full-scale Thanksgiving dinner that’s free and open to the public. The club purchases the turkeys, and the Keystone Conference Center, through an ECHO grant, cooks the birds and provides a wide variety of side dishes, from potatoes and gravy to the pumpkin pie dessert. Finally, the town of Silverthorne donates the Silverthorne Pavilion for Thanksgiving Day, providing a location for it all to come together.
Rotarian and dinner organizer Wendy Myers estimates that the Rotary Club has put on the dinner for at least 25 years. Typically, the club serves between 350 and 420 people, with the record high of 425 attendees in 2010. Rotarians and several volunteers set up, serve the food and take down, while the cooking is done by the experts over at the Keystone Conference Center.
This year, Myers bought 20 turkeys, all between 18 and 20 pounds, from the local City Market.
“That’s at least 400 pounds of turkey,” she said. She delivered the birds to the Keystone Conference Center two weeks ago, where they have been thawed and soon will be cooked.
The chefs at the center will also be making stuffing, salad, green beans, potatoes with homemade gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls and butter and pumpkin pie for dessert.
“And they bring it all, hot, to us,” Myers said. “It’s the full meal deal.”
The meal is open to the public and free of cost, although people can place money into a contribution jar, if they would like, said Myers.
The Rotary Club pays for the turkeys with help from its fundraisers throughout the year, such as the Ice Melt contest, raffles and barbecues.
Those in attendance usually range widely in age, Myers said.
“We have whole families, we have young people, we have the resort workers who aren’t working that day,” she added.
Myers also puts together a handful of boxed-up Thanksgiving meals to give to the senior center. Those meals are then delivered to seniors in the county who, for whatever reason, aren’t mobile enough to attend the dinner.
For Myers and other Rotarians, providing the free Thanksgiving dinner is a way to support Summit County and bring the community together.
“This is one of the ways we’ve always given back to the community,” Myers said. “It started out, because we are a resort community and there are a number of younger adults who come into the community to work, this is our way of giving them a home meal, because not all of them can go home for the holidays.”
It has since grown beyond that goal, and Myers has enjoyed watching the dinner become a success.
“It’s a fun thing for me to do. I really like being in charge of the event, because the people that come are very grateful and it’s just wonderful for me to be able to personally see other people enjoying a good Thanksgiving meal and the camaraderie that goes on between everybody that comes,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere. It gets very crowded, but it’s fun. It’s a good fun crowd. We give everybody a full plate and for the most part everybody seems to be fully satisfied.”