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While the Lighted Tractor Parade may take center stage during the holiday season in Calistoga with its excitement and growing popularity, the annual Holiday Dinner is a community event that has been bringing friends and neighbors together for 35 years, like a favorite family tradition.

Held each year on Christmas Day and put on by the City of Calistoga Recreation Department, the free Holiday Dinner was held at the decked-out Butler Pavilion at the Napa County Fairgrounds this year.

About 150 people usually attend the event, with about 30 meals delivered to those unable to attend in person, and this year was no different.

This was Recreation Manager Rachel Melick’s fourth time organizing the event, and only a week after a harrowing bicycle accident that required a short hospital stay.

Melick said there were about 35 volunteers this year, many who have been serving nearly since the beginning.

Guests were greeted at the door by Bev and Jim Barnes who regularly volunteer and donate to the dinner.

Hazel and Dana Cole, helping pour wine, have been volunteering for 25 years. They used to bring their children, who are now grown, “It was always a good experience,” Hazel said.

Melick said she starts culling donations for the dinner starting in mid-November and is knee-deep in preparations a solid two weeks before the event.

Volunteers stood at the ready to serve a holiday feast that included tri-tip (donated by Buster’s BBQ), ham (donated by Solage), Caesar’s salad (donated by Cal Mart), along with mashed potatoes (donated by Calistoga Inn and Boskos), gravy, rolls, and for dessert choice of pumpkin or pecan pie, or both.

Sparkling cider and wine were served throughout the meal, with a selection of donated Napa Valley wines including sauvignon blanc, white blends, roses, and cabernet sauvignon.

New volunteers this year included Donald Stamets, general manager at Solage, and Bill Moore Stamets who manned the coffee station, and received some tips from long-time volunteer Cathy Prevost. Prevost and her husband, who regularly commuted from Half-Moon Bay to sell flowers at the Farmer’s Market and volunteer at the community Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners, finally moved to Calistoga a few years ago.

“Between coming every year and volunteering, we realized this is our family now, and it’s just wonderful,” she said.

The many donors for this year’s dinner included Huge Bear Wines, Castello di Amorosa, Schramsberg Vineyards, Romeo Vineyards, Tedeschi, Calistoga Inn, Calistoga Ranch, Indian Springs Resort, Calistoga Roastery, Calistoga Realty, Best Western Plus, Napa County Fair, Valley Oak Inn, Funke’s, Calistoga Pottery, Chelsea Garden Inn, Checkers, Calistoga Wine Shop, Calistoga Chamber, Calistoga Tribune, Maldonado Vineyards, Twomey Cellars, Barbara Lencioni, Valerie and Bob Beck, Frank Lohwasser, Marcia Boldstein, David Shaw, Joan Caputi, Eden Umble, Anne Ernst, and Jill Hoff.

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You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com or 942-4035.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor