A ‘highlight of the year’

From left, Tony Gulizia, Brian Loftus and Helmut Fricker perform a Pennsylvania polka during the senior holiday luncheon Monday at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek.
Justin Q. McCarty | Special to the Daily |

BEAVER CREEK — The silver foxes gathered at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for its 13th annual senior luncheon.

Eagle County has three senior centers, Eagle, Minturn and Basalt/El Jebel, and this is one of their only opportunities to get together. Some ride the bus, some drive. They get there any way they can with the possible exception of parachute.

While they’re together, they laugh and sing and have more fun than a Wall Street banker cashing a bailout check.

“We feel so welcome,” said John Bade. “They have extended so much warmth and friendliness, it makes us feel like family. This is one of the highlights of the year for the seniors.”

They usually sit with someone from another town, sometimes someone from a previous years luncheon to catch up. Each year they establish new indoor records for smiles and grandchild pride.

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“We love it because they love it”

Robert Purdy, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek general manager, is working his fifth annual senior luncheon. Every year he puts up a signup list for his managers to volunteer. Every year he has more volunteers than he can use, but he always finds something for them to do.

The managers handle the banquet and love their work.

“We look forward to this all year,” Purdy said. “It’s one of the staff’s favorite days. The managers work as the servers, and it becomes real obvious real fast that this is not their first time to carry a serving tray. They know what they’re doing.”

His wife, Karen Purdy, was in this year’s crowd. She volunteers to help the seniors at the Minturn center.

“We love it because they love it,” said Shanna Sweeney, who works in the hotel’s marketing and sales department.

Local jazz legend Tony Gulizia and Brian Loftus, of BLT (Brian Loftus & Tony), did the music for the luncheon. Gulizia says it’s one of his favorite events.

“This is very special, and I put it on my calendar every year,” Gulizia said. “I’ve been part of every one of these. I see some of these folks out in the community, and they always ask me if I’ll be at the Hyatt event. Yes, I will.”

They play a couple hours — all Christmas music that you know and love.

Here’s another thing. The Park Hyatt chef staff prepares a stellar meal. It’s so good that the seniors ate their vegetables, which is a pretty big deal. When you get to be their age, you don’t have to eat or do anything you don’t want to, but they ate these.

You can dance the Chicken Dance and not care whether you flap your wings in exact rhythm with the music. As always, Johnnette Phillips showed everyone how it goes, and everyone did fine because the Chicken Dance is like federal government accounting. It was close enough.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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