Holiday countdown begins |

Holiday countdown begins

Stores prepare, post offices brace, bell ringers gather for busy weekend

Melinda Mawdsley

Brad Maxwell, owner of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in downtown Steamboat Springs, mixes white chocolate into the fudge mix Sunday morning.

— From start to finish, Brad Maxwell can make a batch of milk chocolate fudge in 17 minutes.

“The reason I know that is because I time myself to try and beat my best time,” said Maxwell, owner of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in downtown Steamboat Springs.

The holidays are a candy lover’s dream, and fudge is the most popular homemade product the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory offers. With a table near the front windows, passersby have the chance to stop and watch fudge being made, but don’t be alarmed if the shades are drawn on particularly sunny Steamboat days.

“The sun isn’t good for the apples,” Maxwell said.

The final push before the holidays begins today with what the U.S. Postal Service estimates to be the largest mailing day of the year.

Post offices across the country will be handling three to four times their regular mail volume and helping as many as three times as many customers compared to normal.

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“We are getting down to the deadline,” Steamboat Postmaster Frank Murphy said.

Area post offices don’t have extended hours for the holidays. Additionally, people are reminded that there are minimal hours of delivery Saturday and no delivery on Sunday or Monday, so time is running out.

“Friday was the last day for regular slow shipping,” said PostNet’s Bethany Graham. “(This) week it will be expensive if you want it there by Christmas. Friday is the last day, and it would have to be overnight, but that’s expensive.”

Graham said there are ways to expedite the shipping process.

“Have the address well written,” she said. “Have everything separated. Mark it if it’s fragile.”

Hazardous materials and alcohol cannot be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service. Murphy said using alcohol boxes for packaging, even if there is no alcohol inside, is prohibited.

Those living in Routt County also are asked to do their part in assisting the post offices during their busiest days of the year.

“Make sure they check their (post office) boxes on a daily basis because we have limited space here,” Murphy said. “We are starting to get full on parcels. We don’t have the room to store them.”

The main post office location in downtown Steamboat is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Sundance Plaza location is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Those looking for a way to volunteer and help those in need this holiday season can donate their time ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

The red kettles will be set up at Wal-Mart, Safeway or City Market during the day for the rest of the week. Members of the Masonic Hall also have set up a kettle on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Eighth Street.

“It’s a nice opportunity for families to volunteer together,” said Salvation Army coordinator Susan Mizen. “People show up with their dogs or with reindeer antlers on.”

Mizen said the Salvation Army is aiming to beat last year’s record of $16,000 raised. As of Sunday, $11,000 had been collected.

“It’s hard to know if we will top last year,” Mizen said. “It raised the bar. It’s totally dependent on how many hours we are out there ringing the bell.”

To volunteer for the Salvation Army, contact Susan Croser at 879-5986.