Festivals celebrating harvest time have occurred for centuries all over the world. Thanksgiving in the United States is commonly traced to a poorly documented gathering by Pilgrims in 1621, rejoicing in a good harvest. As President, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration, but it was Abraham Lincoln in 1863 who made the day into a national holiday. Thanksgiving is now always celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
Turkey was not commonly served on Thanksgiving until after 1800, but by 1850 it had become part of the traditional dinner in New England-not necessarily so Out West. Butcher shops in the west were known to carry not only the typical beef and pork, but also whatever wild game hunters would bring into their stores. Venison was as easily served on Thanksgiving as was seafood on the West Coast. Today over 250 million turkeys are raised each year in the United States with at least a third consumed in November and December.
Estes Park, the town adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, has a long tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving. Early settlers in the 1880's would gather for a group after after listening to a few words from Reverend Elkanah Lamb. Some families still have descendants living in town since the early 1900's with holiday traditions of their own (such as the owner of MacDonald's Bookshop which is housed in an original forestry cabin.) But if you can claim an early settler as your ancestor or are a Brand new tourist to the town, Estes Park is a fantastic place to spend the holiday. Below are the top three reasons why.
One: Simply put-great restaurants, superb hotels at discount offseason prices, and wonderful shopping, all against a stunning background of snow-capped mountains. Whether you plan to enjoy the meal cooked for you or want to find the ingredients you need to make the special dishes yourself, the town can supply you with everything. Worried you will get snowed in? Even if the flakes fall, they usually disappear quickly this time of year and if not, excellent snow removal systems are in place.
Two: Watch the Catch the Glow Parade the day after Thanksgiving. Beginning at 5:30, view hundreds of lights and decorations downtown while you watch the charming hometown curtain of creative floats. Townfolk mingle with tourists in a fun and friendly atmosphere. But if you bring your kids, be sure to visit the downtown area earlier in the day for a visit with Santa and a free hayride.
Three: What better place to lose some of the pounds you put on eating than Rocky Mountain National Park. Enjoy hiking through scenic scenery while the park is less crowded. Do not forget that 2015 is the one hundredth year anniversary of the park and it should be over flowing with tourists next year. Too stuffed to move? Take a jeep guided tour of back country or simply sit in your own car with your mouth gaped open and enjoy the splendor. Then get back to Estes Park because you found enough room in your stomach, after all, for a little dessert.