The John Bemis Community Potluck is back Nov. 20 in Snowmass Village |

The John Bemis Community Potluck is back Nov. 20 in Snowmass Village

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to The Aspen Times
Chey Cooper, left, and Candy and Matt Huffman dig into their feast at the 2014 John Bemis Community Potluck Dinner.
File photo/Snowmass Sun

After a two-year hiatus, first due to COVID in 2020 and then property renovation last year, the John Bemis Community Potluck returns to celebrate Thanksgiving, and community, Nov. 20.

The tradition began in the late 1980s as an intimate gathering of 40 to 50 people sitting at four to five round tables in the back of Snowmass Chapel between pews and library shelves. Now, it has grown to well over 500 people at the Viewline Resort.

“It’s one of the most popular events in the village,” said Rose Abello, Snowmass tourism director. “It’s a time to see your neighbors and kick off the season and welcome new neighbors — whether that’s seasonal workers or families — to the Snowmass family.”

Snowmass Mayor Bill Madsen noted that naming the potluck after John Bemis reminds everyone how much John and Joan have done for the town.

John and Joan Bemis celebrate after a fishing trip. While John was an avid fisherman who taught his wife, when they would go out together, “I always caught the first fish,” Joan said.
Bob Loubier/Courtesy photo |

When the dinner outgrew the chapel, it seemed the potluck would end, but John Bemis wouldn’t have it.

“He was very upset, to say the least,” his family wrote in a letter to the editor on Nov. 27, 2018. “Before long he was talking to the Rotary, the town, the chapel community, the conference center, to Harold Arnold to furnish the turkeys and hams, and working with Allison Campbell, who was invaluable as he tackled the chore of a new venue. … It was a special mission for John. His vision was that locals, second-home owners, visitors and young people who were just arriving to work on the mountain would all sit down together and celebrate as a community.” 

He led the charge to resurrect the dinner at the then-Silver Tree Conference Center in 2008 with linen tablecloths and napkins and real dishes, silverware and wine glasses — “no plastic and no paper” was his motto in a time before zero-waste events became popular.

“John and Joan Bemis have been pillars of this community,” said Madsen. “It’s a great memorial; it helps people remember what they’ve done for our town.”

These days, Viewline Resort Snowmass provides the turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and, new this year: green bean casserole. Anyone attending is asked to bring a cold dish in the form of a salad, side, cornbread or dinner rolls, cranberries or dessert.

“The food is awesome,” Madsen said. “People take real pride in creating a dish and bringing it, and the Viewline does a phenomenal job.”

Ham is dished out during the community potluck dinner on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at the Westin Snowmass.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
If you go…

What: John Bemis Community Potluck

When: 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20

Where: Viewline Resort Snowmass

Bring: A cold side dish or dessert

Contribute: The event is free, but guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to Lift UP to aid its mission to provide equitable food security for individuals and families and educate and build understanding and support to end hunger from Parachute to Aspen. Recommended items include stews, chili, soup, nuts, pasta, sauce, peanut butter, tuna, oatmeal, rice, beans and macaroni and cheese.