Thanksgiving in the West

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

My good friend, writer Corinne Garcia, has been hearing about our Vermillion family Thanksgiving traditions for years. She listened to me rattle off all sorts of random details and wrote this two-paragraph introduction, which also appears in our joint column in the November/December 2015 issue of Montana Magazine.

Three couples, seven kids under the age of 8, eight dogs, two doting grandparents, a roaring fire, multiple hunting excursions, snowball fights, board games, naps and, of course, an abundance of food. It’s a Vermillion family tradition, and one that encapsulates the spirit of Thanksgiving in the West. Here, it’s documented through the photography of Lynn Donaldson, one of the lucky family members.

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

Photography by Lynn Donaldson

Each year, come sun, rain, snow or sleet, Donaldson’s in-laws ready their Sweetgrass County home for the onslaught of giggling children, spirited adults and amped up dogs. “It’s a pretty idyllic setting for a Montana Thanksgiving, with amazing views right on the Yellowstone River,” Donaldson explains. Along with a grand feast for the Thanksgiving dinner, they family also enjoys casual meals together along with adventures in the great outdoors. “It’s a time when we can all take a break from our busy lives, catch up and enjoy food, each other’s company and lots of laughs,” Donaldson adds. – Corinne Garcia

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A recap of the day in my own words:

Thanksgiving Dinner is served about 6:30 pm, so there is lots of time during the day to hunt, play in the snow…even to be stuck inside stringing together the turkey’s cranberry necklace (it’s Vermillion tradition to “dress” the turkey).

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

Everyone shows up for cocktails and appetizers dressed in their Thanksgiving best. The tables are set, and the feast begins.

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

The children’s table is a lively place. My eight-year-old son Charlie is thrilled to have scored a drumstick, and our twins (Ben & Chase) display pies their Aunt Jen has made as cousin Josie looks on. Mmmm…dessert

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

After the dishes are done, it’s time to digest. Everyone—including the family’s pack of Labrador Retrievers & Jack Russells— gathers around the living room fireplace for several rounds of The Name Game (a.k.a. Fishbowl, a.k.a. Celebrity, a.k.a. Salad Bowl). It’s such a fun game to play with a family. The kids love it and have been playing since they could grip a pencil.

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

The rest of the long weekend is spent relaxing, visiting, eating, and burning off calories outdoors. There are family hunts, yoga sessions (taught by Aunt Catherine), afternoon naps and baking lessons. 

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

Family entertainment is in full swing every evening. The grandkids love getting to decorate Yaya & Papa’s Christmas tree. There are impromptu recitals and more parlor games. (Beware, little Star Wars fan…if the tryptophan kicks in during The Name Game, Uncle Jeff is sure to play a prank, and you may wake to find “I Love Princess Leah” scrawled across your belly.) If the turkey doesn’t knock ‘em out, a bedtime story from Yaya surely will.

Yellowstone Family Thanksgiving on The Last Best Plates

 

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