Parishes serve up a St. Pat’s tradition |

Parishes serve up a St. Pat’s tradition

Tim Mutrie

The oldest event in Aspen returns this Friday when St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Main Street hosts its 113th annual St. Patrick’s Day community dinner.

“As we say, it’s the oldest tradition in Aspen, next to the snow,” joked John Vogel, co-chair for the event along with Jeanie Walla.

The event typically draws 700 people – and couple that with some 400 people expected at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Basalt for a similar gathering – and it’s clear that folks in the mid and upper Roaring Fork Valley truly enjoy communal feasting on St. Patty’s Day.

“It’s one of the biggest eating events in Basalt that I know of,” said Mary Weaver, a member of St. Vincent’s 10-member Altar and Rosary Society. “It’s so social – everyone in towns comes – and companies will even bring all their employees.”

Although St. Vincent’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner – now in its 27th year – is in its infancy compared to the St. Mary’s event, which dates back to the mining days in Aspen, the two events are closely related.

“Our church was part of St. Mary’s back in the old days,” Weaver said, “and then they built the church in Basalt. That’s when we started having our St. Patrick’s Day dinner; we wanted to continue the same tradition. It’s worth holding on to.”

At St. Mary’s, parishioners plan to begin preparing the food – roasted beef and pork, along with mashed potatoes, vegetables, coleslaw and bread – today, with help from local businesses, including the Wienerstube, Crystal Palace, Hotel Jerome, Louis Swiss Bakery, Elk’s Club and Clark’s Market. Parishioners are baking homemade cakes for dessert.

Unlike most traditional St. Patty’s Day dinners, corned beef and cabbage will not be served at St. Mary’s. But, according to Vogel, pork and beef were favored by the Irish at the time of its inception, so the menu for the event remains the same.

“This year we’ve also rented a large tent,” Vogel said. “In the past, people had to wait upstairs and they couldn’t drink. But this year, they can wait in the tent, have a few drinks, listen to the band and socialize.”

The Celtic band Beat Smash Square from Paonia will play at the event, he said.

At St. Vincent’s, corned beef, as well as roast beef, cabbage, green bean casserole, potatoes, Jello salad and cake will be served.

“We started [Wednesday] making the Jello salad and [today] we’ll make the corned beef, and then Friday we’ll make the roast beef and all the potatoes and everything else,” Weaver said.

All the food is being prepared by the members of the Altar and Rosary Society, she added.

“We do everything, and then the rest of the church, from children through senior citizens, help to serve the meal and do anything else that needs to be done during the dinner,” Weaver said. “It’s quite an event, a lot of work, but it’s fun, too.”

At St. Mary’s, dinner costs $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. At St. Vincent’s, family tickets are $22; tickets are $7 for anyone over 12; $4 for children ages 5 to 11. Children under the age of 5 dine free.

Proceeds from the events will benefit several projects at each church.

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