34th annual Community Christmas Dinner brings together locals, visitors | SteamboatToday.com

34th annual Community Christmas Dinner brings together locals, visitors

For the 34th year in a row, volunteers from the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors spent Christmas afternoon scooping stuffing and mashed potatoes, handing out turkey and ham, and greeting the hundreds of Routt County residents and visitors at the annual Community Christmas Dinner.

“It’s Christmas, and even if you’re not religious, we’re showing God’s love in a practical way for the community,” said Ray Wright, a real estate broker at Steamboat Sotheby’s International and the primary chef at the event.

“From a secular standpoint, the community has been good to us, and we’ve done well, and we wanted to give back,” he said.

Ray Wright, a real estate broker with Steamboat Sotheby’s Imternational, helped cook food for hundreds of people during the 34th annual Community Christmas Dinner on Saturday, Dec. 25. l Alison Berg/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Ulrich Salzgebar, Board of Realtors president, said the tradition started 34 years ago when Steamboat Resort was much smaller and often did not open until after Christmas.

During the holiday season, Salzgebar said, many resort employees could not afford dinner and didn’t have families nearby to feed them, so the board stepped up.

“You had all these workers who weren’t making any money, so we wanted to see if we could provide a nice dinner and camaraderie on Christmas,” Salzgebar said. “It’s a really nice thing we like to do on Christmas Day.”

Carol Bloodworth and Mary Johnston enjoy dinner and conversation at Steamboat’s annual Community Dinner on Dec. 25, 2021.
Alison Berg/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The group had 26 turkeys, 40 hams, 400 pounds of mashed potatoes and hundreds of desserts for this year’s feast.

Salzgebar said the event normally draws between 350-500 people, though the 2021 dinner had only about 250, which Salzgebar attributed to COVID-19 and people traveling out of town for the day.

While the dinner began for employees, the board invites both tourists and locals to join, as many restaurants are closed Christmas Day, and those visiting town may be looking for a place to eat.

“We get people that don’t live here, but they’ve heard about it, so they’ll come for dinner,” Salzgebar said.

The dinner is held on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2020, both events were drive-thru only due to COVID-19 restrictions, and being able to socialize in person over dinner again was a pleasant addition for many of this year’s guests.

“It’s really special that we all just get to come here, and we don’t have to cook,” said Marrily Waldron, a Steamboat resident. “It’s nice that we all get to come together.”

Jon wade, a real estate agent at The Steamboat Group, cooked and served food at the Steamboat Community Dinner held Friday, Dec 25, 2021. l Alison Berg/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Karen Wagner, a Denver resident who has come to the dinner every year for the past eight years, said her family enjoys the event because they get to meet new people each year.

The family owns a house in West Routt County, but because Denver is their primary residence, Wagner said her family was unsure if they would be welcome at their first Christmas eight years ago.

Over the years, Wagner and her family are grateful to keep attending and getting to know the community better.

“I like the different people we’ve gotten to talk to over the years,” Wagner said.

At the end of the dinner, the board brings any extra food to the Steamboat Springs Transit center and Routt County Combined Law Enforcement facility for bus drivers and law enforcement officers who were not able to attend the dinner due to working during the day.

A family enjoys their meal at the annual Steamboat Community dinner held Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021. l Alison Berg/Steamboa Pilot & Today

“It’s a really nice, comforting thing,” Salzgebar said.

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