Summit Rotary Club’s free feast feeds hundreds on Thanksgiving Day
November 22, 2018
Inside the doors of the Silverthorne Pavilion on Thursday stood Rotarian Bill Sanders, tasked with welcoming people to the latest Summit County Rotary Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
"As soon as they walk in the door," he explained, "I say, 'Welcome, nice to have you here, Happy Thanksgiving, come on in and have dinner with us. It's important for everyone to feel welcome — that's the key."
As a greeter, Sanders saw a steady stream of hungry people spill into the pavilion Thursday. By the time the meal was over, event organizer Wendy Myers said, she expected the Rotary Club would have fed anywhere from 375-400 people this Thanksgiving day.
"I actually really enjoy it, which is why I've been doing it so long," said Myers, who's been organizing the holiday dinner since 2009.
Inside the pavilion were senior citizens, ski resort employees and many families, just to name a few. From toddlers to the elderly, the meal was free for all and they all seemed to enjoy the spread, including a hearty helping of turkey with potatoes, gravy, green beans, rolls and homemade pumpkin pie for dessert.
One man who lives in Silverthorne has been stopping by the Rotary's Thanksgiving Day meal for years. He had already had a busy day Thursday by the time he got to the pavilion shortly after doors opened at noon, starting at 6 a.m., he said, with taking his dog for a hike. Afterward, he met a few friends, and together they went and skied Keystone Resort.
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"I knew they were having this free dinner here, and I'm starved from doing laps at Keystone," he said. "I love what the Rotary does; it's awesome."
A couple at the dinner, with the man recovering from shoulder surgery three weeks ago, said they preferred to rest instead of cook and decided to take advantage of the Rotary Club's work to do just that.
"We didn't feel like having company, we didn't feel really going any place fancy so we thought we'd come check it out," the man said, adding the food was "very good."
Once there, they ran into two friends, another couple who with it being just the two of them, didn't think it prudent to go through all the hassle of making an extravagant holiday meal, especially after running in Frisco's Turkey Day 5k Fun Run a few hours before the meal.
The Rotary Club started the dinners in the late 1990s.
At the time, about 200 people were being fed through them. Now, the Thanksgiving Day feast feeds twice that number.
To pull it off, the club starts putting everything together in September, Myers said, adding that they get free use of the pavilion and that a grant from Keystone has been instrumental in growing the event over the decades.
From there, Mike and Tenley Spry, the owners of the Sunshine Café in Silverthorne, provide the turkeys, and the Rotary Club takes care of all the fixin's. The meal is prepared by chefs at the Keystone Conference Center and then delivered to the pavilion. Once it's done, the Rotarians clean up and start thinking about next year, Myers said.
"It's a wonderful feeling to see people come in," Sanders said. "They feel welcome, they feel happy, they get a nice meal. You don't know everybody, of course, but it's a family kind of atmosphere — makes you feel good."