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Working for your turkey

Melanie WongVail, CO Colorado
NWS Thanksgiving Work 1 DT 11-22-07
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EAGLE COUNTY – While many people were digging into their turkey feasts at home and others were flocking to the slopes for some Thanksgiving skiing, Patti Gray was busy answering phones, seating guests and running the dining room at Billy’s Island Grill. Having Thanksgiving off just is not an expected or normal part of working in a ski resort town, said Gray, an assistant manager at the Lionshead restaurant.

“I work most holidays. Holidays are just part of the resort business, and there’s a lot of money to be made on those days,” Gray said.The wait staff with seniority usually have the choice of getting holidays off, but most people do not want to give up the extra money that can be made, she said.Someone has to serve everyone who goes out for Thanksgiving dinner, especially because the mountain is open at Lionshead, she said.Some years, she does an early Thanksgiving dinner with friends before going into work, but this year, everyone she knows also is working. Celebrations will probably be limited to cocktails with the restaurant staff after they close, she said. Most of the staff at the Turntable Restaurant in Minturn also were working. It was a busy night because the restaurant held their annual free Thanksgiving dinner, cook Maribel Romero, said.”I usually come in – also just because I want to help out my boss,” she said.Last-minute grocery shoppers were keeping workers at City Market in Avon busy Thanksgiving morning. “We usually get slammed with last-minute shoppers in the morning, then it clears out in the afternoon,” deli manager Kyle Tzitzicas said. “Also, we do prepared turkeys, and most people pick them up today.”None of his staff has the day off because it is so busy.”It’s the fair way to do it,” he said.

Tricia Swenson, executive producer and host for TV8’s “Good Morning Vail,” has worked Thanksgiving for the past 6 years.”I choose to stay just because if I’m only going to get one holiday off, I’d rather go home for Christmas,” she said.But work will not really get in the way of holiday festivities because she still gets half the day off. The workday for the morning show starts at 5:45 a.m., so she will be done with work by 10 a.m. – enough time to work out and make it to Thanksgiving dinner with friends, she said.”It’s just something you try to accept because you live in a resort town,” she said.That is especially true with mountain jobs, where holidays are the busiest days. Mountain workers sign up for the whole winter, expecting to work from Thanksgiving to Easter, said Swenson, who used to be a ski instructor at Beaver Creek.”When I went into a corporate job, I was actually amazed that you get to go home for the holidays. I just wasn’t used to it,” she said.A busy ski day also means that medical personnel, such as physical therapist Jenelle Johns, are working. Johns, who works at the Howard Head Sports Medicine Center at Beaver Creek, said it is a bit disappointing to have to work, even though the mountain at Beaver Creek was not open Thanksgiving, but it is all part of being the newest therapist at the clinic.”When you’re the rookie, you have to put in your time,” she said, shrugging.With more people out and traveling, it is also work as usual for the police and fire departments.Police dispatch was fully staffed and working a 14-hour shift, said Robert Petrowsky, a Vail Public Safety communications dispatcher.His schedule happens to fall on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, he said, but he does not mind so much. Working on the busiest days of the season helps him to avoid the crowds.”Out here there’s so many people that I prefer to be off on other days for skiing and going out,” he said. “And you don’t have to stand in line forever at the grocery store.

The dispatchers’ schedules do not allow them to go home for a later Thanksgiving celebration like some others, but the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail is providing a dinner for the police and fire departments.”We’re pretty much covered in that respect,” Petrowsky said.City Market also makes the Thanksgiving workers a holiday dinner, Tzitzicas said, so everyone gets to celebrate some at work.”We’re pretty cheerful in there. Everybody’s in a happy mood because it’s Thanksgiving,” he said.Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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