Friday, December 9, 2016
Estes Park Thanksgiving Community Gathering A Huge Success!
From There to Here, From Then to Now: A True Story By: Tony Schetzsle
For 16 years, every Thanksgiving, citizens in the Estes Valley gather to share a table, conversation, and a meal, a Thanksgiving meal. People come for reasons known only to themselves but leave having shared with their newfound Thanksgiving Day family a common sense of gratefulness. They shared a moment of thanks. And that moment is witnessed by all who make this event possible. It comes at no costs to any and all who partake, there and here, then and now. This gathering has a history. As the story goes, on an unusually cold day in November, 17 years ago, Larraine Darling and Steve Misch were comparing plans for the coming Thanksgiving holiday. Both would be with their immediate families. There would be no out-of-towners, relatives, extended family or others to join them. Larraine reasoned that most likely there would be others in the community who would also be alone. That notion troubled Larraine and she was disturbed, but in a very good way. At the time, Larraine owned and operated Notchtop in Stanley Village. Larraine, egged on by Steve, conspired that they have a venue, can get whatever tra-
ditional food is needed, have the means to prepare it and most certainly have the desire to host and share a communal Thanksgiving holiday. With commitment, determination and a spirit of giving, the first Thanksgiving Community Gathering (TCG) would and did take place at the Notchtop in 2001. With the aid of volunteers, some of whom are still active today, 42 attendees were welcomed and served in the true meaning of the holiday. The first TCG was such a joy for all who participated that Larraine and Steve decided to repeat the meal in 2002 and again in 2003 at Notchtop. Just as the at-
tendance grew to 156 community members, so too did the number of volunteers who made it possible. Likewise, the generosity of Valley residents resulted in more donations of goods, services, food, time and cash. In 2004, TCG was moved to The Hangar restaurant at the Estes Park 18 Hole Golf Course. Along with the move came a change in the demographics of the attendees. Citizens from every sector of the community as well as some out-oftowners shared the tables. Even better, TCG began delivering meals to the home-bound and others who simply could not make it to The Hangar. All told, 23 meals were delivered and 151 attendees passed through the buffet line supported by nine roasted turkeys. As they say (or not), the fifth time’s a charm. In 2005, Mountain View Bible Fellowship was impressed and motivated to offer their gymnasium and kitchen for the next TCG. Alleluia!! With added space came added opportunity. It was going to be a new look TCG with a traditional meal complemented by entertainment, face painting for children, and more. But most importantly, our community guests were greeted, seated, and served by community volunteers. And
that year, there were 255 guests, 82 volunteers, and 33 meals delivered supported by ten very large roasted turkeys. Nothing breeds success like success. During the next decade, attendance grew to 728 last year, meals delivered increased to 130 and 36 turkeys were roasted in support. Entertainment over the years included Cowboy Brad Fitch, Ray Young, Steve the Balloon Artist, Steve Misch as Master of Ceremonies and Larraine Darling as Master of the Kitchen. The ‘Homemade Only’ baked goods table was established, a Mayoral Proclamation issued and a feature article on TCG in the newspaper insert American Profile. TCG has grown to a full size event from an incubated idea that embodies the spirit of ‘Community serving Community’. TCG is a gathering of thankful folks hosted by other grateful folks. It should be noted that the tradition of TCG in the Estes Valley began over 100 years ago. The community with the likes of Enos Mills and others would gather at the ‘Ol Comers’ building at the corner of Elkhorn and Moraine. Not unlike today, they would feast and celebrate as a community. And the old shall be made new again. On this occasion of the 16th annual Thanksgiving Community Gathering, it is open to all members of the Estes Valley, friends, family and visitors. And it is still free! And it is free because so many contribute so much. You might consider donating a homemade goodie to the baked goods table. Many cash donations are offered for these tasty delicacies. You might consider making a ‘tax deductible’ donation to TCG (Yep, TCG is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit charitable organization) by mailing your contribution to TCG, P.O. Box 4122, Estes Park, CO 80517. TCG will be happy to issue a receipt for your purposes. TCG only exists and continues because so many want it to exist and continue. And they do this through their time, efforts, cash donations and contributions of goods and services. In the very least, give us your smile and we’ll give you ours. From the Board of Directors and all the volunteers for TCG, welcome and thank you for sharing this holiday with us. Enjoy!