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‘It brings back blessings’: Ute Mountain Ute tribe hosts Thanksgiving drive-thru

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe hosted its annual Thanksgiving dinner, drive-thru style. Here, Querida A. Mark hands out meals outside the Ute Mountain Casino.
2,000 meals served to tribal families

Feelings of gratitude and cheer floated through Towoac Wednesday as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe hosted a Thanksgiving dinner drive-thru at the Ute Mountain Casino.

It was the second year the annual event was held as a drive-thru instead of an in-person gathering due to COVID-19. This year, an extra 100 meals were distributed, for a total of 2,000 to-go Thanksgiving feasts.

“It brings back blessings to all of us,” said Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Chairman Manuel Heart.

The event was all about giving back to tribal members – especially in the wake of hardships like the pandemic, he said.

“Sometimes we take things for granted,” Heart said. “We need to be thankful for everything we have in life.”

Meals were delivered to tribal elders who were unable to drive down to the casino, he said.

From left: Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Chairman Manuel Heart and Tribe Royalty Pachun Collins and Leland Collins
Inside the Ute Mountain Casino, assembly lines prepared and packaged 2,000 Thanksgiving meals.

About 80 people – casino personnel and otherwise – made the event possible, said Raynal Frank, casino banquets manager.

“It’s such a great feeling and a beautiful day to do it,” said casino general manager Richard Scheer.

Up for grabs were 1,000 turkey dinners and 1,000 ham dinners, complemented with traditional mainstays like mashed potatoes, stuffing and corn.

The food was preordered and paid for by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the casino helped to facilitate the event.

Leland Collins and Pachun Collins, tribal royalty, were present to greet fellow tribal members.

“During these hard times with COVID, it’s good to have our community come together once in a while,” Leland said.

He said the event “boosted morale” amid the pandemic.

"I’m happy to be here because I get to see everyone that I didn’t get to see last year because of COVID,“ Pachun said.

Cars lined up in two lanes, while inside the casino, assembly lines were fast at work preparing and packaging food.

Querida A. Mark was one of many taking orders and running food from the casino to waiting cars.

“Kindness goes a long way these days,” she said.

To her, it was important “just giving back to the community and making everyone feel important.”