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Ameristar Casino serves up the seventh annual Christmas luncheon

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ameristar_the-gang-from-ameristarGilpin’s seniors delight in a culinary holiday tradition

by Patty Unruh

“People who love to eat are always the best people,” opined chef Julia Child. If that is true – and it is – dozens of Gilpin County’s best people loved their dining experience last week at the Gilpin Community Center (GCC).

Nearly 80 of Gilpin’s seniors savored a holiday meal with all the trimmings provided by the Ameristar Casino at the GCC on Wednesday, December 21. The feast was the seventh annual Christmas luncheon donated by the Ameristar for folks served by Gilpin County’s senior program and was part of “Ameristar Cares,” in which the casino supports its local community.

Seventeen Ameristar employees prepared and served the succulent meal. Brandi Smith, Internal Communication Specialist, coordinated the Ameristar group and hustled around making sure everything ran smoothly on their end. Chefs Brian Monahan, Steve Jamison, and Dan Salazar and pastry chef Sky Goble outdid themselves with the spread of seasonal favorites: a fresh green salad prepared on the spot, dinner rolls, generous slabs of roast turkey and ham, dressing with cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans with onions and mushrooms, and tempting slices of pumpkin or peach pie.

Monahan said the group had done part of the food preparation the previous day and had been at it since 6:00 on the morning of the event itself.  He expressed, “This is my first year to do this. I’m glad to do anything I can to help. It’s an honor to provide this service.”

Several of the Ameristar employees were donating their time to serve the meal. Chef Jamison had even flown in that morning from another location in order to be there.

Senior Program Director Mary Ellen Makosky hosted the festivities and was assisted by her able troop of “elves” – Perry Eppenger, Maureen Meixsell, and Colleen Moore. Makosky welcomed the guests and led them in a round of applause for the Ameristar.

“This is going to be a fabulous lunch. Thank you for being here over the years,” she said.

Sean Demeule, Ameristar’s general manager, responded, “We are proud to be part of this community and to give back to you. Thank you for having us.”

Many of the seniors had family members visiting them from other locations and brought them along to share the food and fellowship. Most folks were decked out in red and green, twinkling jewelry, cute Christmas sweaters, or fanciful headgear. Hugs, smiles, and laughter were plentiful as everybody chatted with everybody else.

Although it was the first day of winter, the weather cooperated with Colorado sunshine. “This meal is always so great that we would have had a good turnout even if the weather was bad!” declared senior Tom Shackelford.

As the guests enjoyed their meal, they exchanged news, reminisced about their early years in Gilpin, laughed about the latest pickleball match, and discussed Christmas plans.

Al Arias, now retired, recalled his career as a chef and his many years working for the Black Forest Inn. He and his wife have spent 40 years in the area, including Gilpin, Nederland, and Golden.

Danny Gallegos and his wife are relatively new to Gilpin County, but they love it. “It’s nice to be part of a small community. It’s turned into a family!”

Gloria and Keith Larsen were looking forward to celebrating Christmas by phone with family back East.

“It’s a great way to celebrate,” Pat Shackelford said of the Ameristar meal tradition.

Everywhere you turned, you could hear comments about the food and the service.

“Wonderful!” “Superb!” “We’ve come to expect it!” “The Ameristar people are so nice!”

Fortunately, no one was too full to sing a rousing chorus or two of “Jingle Bells” as the luncheon drew to a successful close. The Ameristar was given a final ovation, and the seniors blessed one another with “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” wishes.

The senior program offers a wealth of services and activities. For information, please contact Mary Ellen Makosky at 303-582-5444 or gilpinseniors@co.gilpin.co.us.

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