Hick House carries on Thanksgiving tradition | AspenTimes.com

Hick House carries on Thanksgiving tradition

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Volunteers greet patrons during The Hickory House’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which takes place today and is open to all.

With 55 turkeys, hundreds of pounds of roast beef and a mountain of mashed potatoes, the Hickory House is once again ready to serve its Thanksgiving dinner in Aspen.

The Main Street restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m. today, with a $5 suggested donation at the door. Manager Bryan Baker estimates that the annual buffet-style dinner serves about 1,000 people, raising $5,000 for the Aspen Buddy Program, the event's sole beneficiary. Along with volunteers from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, all Hickory House employees work for at least two hours during the meal.

This year marks the 16th Thanksgiving dinner under owner Paul Dioguardi, who bought the restaurant in 1998.

"A bunch of people have been doing it for years," said Baker, who is working his first Hickory House Thanksgiving dinner. "There's some new people in town that are helping out, but it's just kind of whoever hears about it and wants to help out. We usually don't have too much advertising for it because we get pretty overwhelmed with the amount of people looking to help on Thanksgiving."

Baker said some employees choose to work longer than two hours because it's such a fun experience. Between the buffet setup and breakdown, dishwashing and food preparation, about 45 employees and 50 volunteers will work this year's event. While the restaurant will be open to the public during the buffet, the restaurant will be closed for dinner service.

"It's funny. Even all the staff looks forward to Thanksgiving here," Baker said. "It's a good day to be working and helping, and it's just a good gesture for the town and anyone who wants to be a part of it."

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Third-generation Aspenite Tom Clapper, whose grandfather worked in Aspen as a miner in the late 1800s, has eaten at the Hickory House on Thanksgiving in the past. He and his wife are thinking about going again this year because their daughter and son are both out of town.

"It's mostly locals. People show up, you get free food, free turkey, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, great pies at the end. It's just a really nice thing they do," Clapper said.

herk@aspentimes.com