Volunteers rock St. Patty’s

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN Clanging plates, flaming stoves, frenetic wait staff shouting orders or “behind” to avoid a spill.A busy Aspen restaurant?Nope, the St. Mary Catholic Church’s St. Patrick’s Day feast, where, for the 121st year, an all-volunteer crew treated between 700 and 800 people to a traditional rancher’s meal Saturday.”I need two combos!” shouted a frantic Helen Klanderud, Aspen’s mayor, busy stacking plates up one arm like a pro.

Bev Mars – famous as the keeper of the event’s secret coleslaw recipe – has been volunteering in the kitchen on St. Patrick’s day for 30 years and said the work is rewarding because of the good cause – proceeds from the event go to area poor.But this year Mars handed off the job (and the secret recipe for coleslaw) to Soren Klanderud, a ten-year veteran and a chef at the St. Regis (not to mention being the mayor’s son).”It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work. But it’s very rewarding,” Soren said.And the tens of volunteers over the three-day event are what make it all happen, organizers said.

“I’ve done it all,” said Peggy Mink while handing out desserts on her 32nd year of volunteering. Mink worked everything from decorating to dishes, but said there’s nothing harder than peeling potatoes.Bernie Paushack, a 35-year veteran, said he was the “gopher” Saturday, bringing donated supplies from area restaurants, which kitchen staff said totaled 450 pounds of potatoes, 300 pounds of coleslaw, 583 pounds of pork, 460 pounds of beef and 35 gallons of gravy, and they plan to feed between 700 and 800 people.Klanderud and the other servers placed their orders with 11-year-old Cheyenne Gorbitz, the kitchen liaison Saturday. And Cheyenne called orders to her mom, Heidi, and Cheyenne’s brother Logan, 6, passed the loaded plates to the servers. Their father Patrick was busy tending bar.”It’s nice to have the whole family be able to do this,” Heidi said.

The event runs thanks to the help of the many volunteers, according to Molly Milroy, director of education at St. Mary. And the big turnout is a reflection of the church as a community, she said.The event raised $35,000 last year, and planners hope that between the silent auction and donations for the meal, they can raise as much again to benefit people in need.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is