Steamboat locals talk about their favorite Thanksgiving traditions

Audrey Dwyer
Sofia Scherff picks out one the many delicious desserts available at Routt County United Way's annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
Audrey Dwyer

— Time-consuming recipes, elaborate pie fillings, perfect table settings — most know the drill for Thanksgiving and have it planned out almost effortlessly.

But for those of us who tend to procrastinate every now and then, Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season after it, tends to have a sneak attack effect.

Although scrambling for the perfect casserole or pie to bring to Grandma’s this year does bring about a bit of pressure and stress to the holidays — surprisingly, the sneak attack comes when reflecting on the question, what am I thankful for?

It’s a question that comes up each Thanksgiving, but the answers each year continue to change and might surprise you.

Since I was 13, I’ve been traveling to Steamboat Springs for the holidays, and the traditions established here have made an everlasting imprint on my memory. Even now, I’m still fascinated by the traditions and events that epitomize Steamboat Springs and its residents.

The Festival of Trees, Scholarship Day, Light Up the Night, Winter Carnival and Routt County United Way’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner are just a few Steamboat traditions that don’t change much from year to year, but continue to exemplify the city’s ever-present and unmatched sense of community.

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on the traditions in your life — whether those traditions are with friends, family or even the Steamboat community — and what they mean to you.

We asked a few residents about their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. Following are their replies.

Millie Beall, longtime local and board president for Integrated Community

“For about two decades, we have started our Thanksgiving Day with a trip to the Community Center to either drop off a turkey or a side or to spend a few hours celebrating community by pitching in to greet and/or serve the participants of this wonderful Steamboat Springs community dinner, hosted by Routt County United Way. It is truly the epitome of what a community is all about!”

Candice Bannister, Steamboat local and executive director of Tread of Pioneers Museum

“By far, my favorite Thanksgiving tradition is giving thanks around the dinner table. No matter how large or small the group, we always go around the table and say what we are thankful for. Throughout my life, I have found that taking time for gratitude, especially at the holidays, is more important to me than the food, games or other traditions we may enjoy. When you focus on gratitude and your blessings, you realize just how lucky you are in so many ways: a roof over your head, food on the table, health of family and friends, etc. Especially in these turbulent times, with so many refugees and others lacking these basic things and suffering, I believe we must not take anything for granted and set aside time for expressed gratitude for all of our blessings. This sets a good example for our young children, as well.”

Karen Vail, long-time local and botanist

“Growing up, on Thanksgiving, we would go for a hike somewhere after watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now, I hike up to a very special tree up the Uranium Mine Road to give thanks for my family, community and the amazing life I have been given. It is a beautiful ponderosa pine that is gnarled and aged, but has such a connection for me, as this was a tree we always took our family photo with. So now, it is my tree to connect, remember and send out many blessings.”

Rob Peterson, Steamboat local and marketing specialist for Big Agnes

“For me, baking deserts Wednesday night is always best, then hit the mountain early for some turns on Thanksgiving. That way, you get things out of the way to enjoy the rest of the day with no stress.”

John Sant Ambrogio, long-time local and musician

“I try to contact all my wonderful family, even though they live all over the country, and all my friends, even though many of them also live all over the country. It’s a time that reminds us to be so grateful for them all. And then, there is the turkey that can only be enjoyed if I am eating it with a “family.”

Heather Shore, Steamboat local and director of programs for the Steamboat Art Museum

“I love Thanksgiving for many reasons. I wouldn’t say my family has specific traditions, but I’d say there are things we all look forward to. Stuffing our faces with hors d’oeuvres and not having an appetite for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Making sure that, no matter what is served, that I can see the ridges from the can on my cranberry sauce. Leftovers. And most importantly, spending time with my family.

Adam Knapp, Steamboat local and owner of Steamboat Christmas Dream and Event Decor

“Whenever I cook Thanksgiving, I usually ski all day, and then, we end up eating at midnight. I don’t know if you can call that a tradition, but more like chronic procrastination.”

Scott Parker, Steamboat local and executive director of the Chief Theater

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for many reasons. I like that it’s not a religious holiday, so people of all walks of life can get together and celebrate what we are thankful for and just simply enjoy the company of family and friends. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is my wife’s green chili cornbread stuffing. I’ve had it for about 15 years in a row. I also love watching football and having pie.

Time out for turkey — a tip from local Tera Johnson Swartz

A lot of folks assume their position for choosing the best way to prepare a turkey. Some are all about the brine, the high heat, the peanut oil fry, the slow roast, the butter, the oil or stuffing it. Honestly, I’ve done them all at one time or another and can say they’ve each had unique and yummy outcomes most of the time. The one lesson I learned a few years back that made all the difference, though, was thoroughly drying the turkey before basting it with butter/oil or whatever your choice moisturizer may be.

And when I say “dry,” I mean bone dry, inside the cavity and out, and if you can, in between the skin, too. But the drying of the water or excess blood/ice really allows the natural juices and oils or butters to seep through and make the juiciest turkey you’ve ever tasted. Whether you use paper towels or several hand towels is another debate, but no matter how backwards this tip may sound — dry the turkey so you can serve a truly juicy one.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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