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Steamboat feasts at annual United Way community dinner

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A plate of turkey is doused in gravy at the Routt County United Way Community Dinner on Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot and Today

Steamboat Springs might not always feel like a small town, but sometimes, like during the annual Thanksgiving community dinner, the charms of the small community shine. 

“They’ve been doing this for over 25 years,” said James Mooney as he finished off his second plate at the Thanksgiving Day feast. “That means there’s a real community here.”

Mooney’s friend Da Chief agreed wholeheartedly. 



Kelli Ashbaugh, James Mooney and Da Chief share a table on Thanksgiving during the United Way Community Dinner on Nov. 24, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“You meet good people all the time,” Chief said. 

The free dinner was hosted by Routt County United Way and sponsored by Mountain Valley Bank. Hundreds of people were served during the community feast that ran from 1-5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24.



More than 120 volunteers helped the United Way make the community dinner possible, and many of them showed up as early as 8 a.m. to help out. 

“I could smell the food down the block,” Steamboat local Eric Jenkins said. 

Volunteers working out of the Arthur E. Anderson Community Kitchen served all the Thanksgiving essentials — mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes and, of course, turkey — as people filed in by the dozen. 

“Salad should be first,” said volunteer Kathy Alfino, who was tasked with offering portions of salad at the end of the buffet line, which was a challenge because most people’s plates were stuffed by the time they got to her. 

Volunteer Kathy Alfino, right, serves salad to people during the Routt County United Way Community Dinner on Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Music was provided by Todd Musselman and his son Colin Musselman, who performed covers for popular songs such as “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger, “Let it Be” by the Beatles and a soulful rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.

Between songs, Todd did his best to help the other staff ensure things ran smoothly. 

“If you’re double-parked, please move your car,” Todd said after singing “Free Falling” by Tom Petty. 

For the people who have attended multiple community dinners, the event was consistent with prior years. However, many of the people who attended the dinner for the first time were surprised by its quality. 

From left to right, Bobby Brown, Susan Moore, Rogelio Maldonado and Hernaldo Espinoza share a table at the United Way Community Dinner on Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“I’m surprised there’s music here,” said Robby Brown, a lifelong Steamboat resident. 

“This is definitely a beautiful scene,” Brown added. 

After the first couple of hours of service, the cooks tried to guess how many people were served.  One of the cooks, Darren Burcher, said he’d guess they served a couple hundred or so. Another cook, Doug Matthews, guessed higher, saying he felt they had served between 300 and 350. 

“There’s 22 eight-tops out there we flipped,” Mathews said, referring to the 22 tables with eight seats apiece. 

Darren Burcher and Doug Matthews cooking food for the Routt County United Way Community Dinner, Nov. 24, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Mathews’ guess was pretty accurate, as United Way staff confirmed his estimate. By the end of the event, more than 400 people were fed. 

All in all, the community dinner was a success. People from all ends of the socio-economic scale shared the eight-tops and greeted each other with a cheerful, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Food was good, people were nice” Jenkins said. “I’d do it again.”

Near the buffet line at the United Way Community Dinner, there was a sign that said, “please save your fork for dessert,” Nov. 24, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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