It’s that time of year again — when the 6th Annual BV Strong Community Dinner stretches the length of East Main Street and beyond. This year’s dinner will be taking place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23. It’s expected that more than 4,000 locals, loved ones, and friends will gather at 500 tables to break bread together and celebrate the community of Buena Vista.

Organized by BV Strong, the BV Community Dinner is a free “nonpolitical, noncommercial, non-promotional event to share food and friendship.” The BV Strong official website (www.bvstrong.com) sets out the goal “to celebrate and nurture a sense of community,” funded entirely by donations.

All donations go to the BV Strong Community Dinner nonprofit charity and can be made online, in person at High Country Bank’s Buena Vista branch, or through the mail.

Setup of some of the 450 tables
that stretched the length of the Buena Visa Main Street for the 2018 BV Strong dinner. (Photo by Henry DeKam)

Organizers say that the BV Strong Community Dinner has become a cherished town holiday rivaling Christmas in popularity and turnout. It creates a purposeful celebration of the uniquely diverse community in Buena Vista. The event has grown to attract people from all over the Valley. Since its inaugural neighborhood feast in 2014, the Community Dinner has more than doubled its size.

Despite how rapidly the BV Strong Community Dinner has grown over the years, its core mission of uniting the community remains steadfast.

“It’s really about celebrating each other. Sitting down at one table and celebrating what we have in common,” explained BV Strong Planning Committee member Amy Lively.

Lively says she attended her first BV Strong Community Dinner five years ago and was so moved she got involved helping with future events. To Lively, bringing the community closer together was not a luxury, but a necessity.

“We live in the same Valley. We don’t just drive past each other, we see them [as members of the community]. We really do live together,” explained Lively.

Organizers point out that the BV Strong Community Dinner opens the door to fellowship with members of the community who might otherwise never cross paths. Creating these connections, they say, weaves each participant into the fabric of the community in beautiful Buena Vista.

“There’s something that breaks down barriers when you sit down to a meal. We all have something to share. We all need our neighbors and community. People really want that closeness,” explained Lively.

Families and individuals can reserve tables and host potluck style dinners encouraging fellowship and opportunities to meet old and new neighbors. BV Strong provides a table, eight chairs, table cloth, recycling and trash bags.

To add to the spirit of sharing, Seven Peaks Music Festival has donated all leftover soda and water from their event, so table hosts do not have to worry about bringing their own beverages.

The deadline to reserve/host a table ends Sept. 21, but individual seats can still be found on the BV Strong Community Dinner Facebook page. Grabbing an individual seat is free and a great way to meet new people in the community! The event is inclusive. Accessible handicapped parking spots will be available from East Main to the alley on the north and south side of Colorado Street and the north side of Court Street.

For the first time, Heart of the Rockies Radio will also be broadcasting live updates throughout the community dinner so anybody can participate. To listen, tune in to Eagle Country 104.1 FM or download the free Heart of the Rockies mobile phone app here.

The BV Strong Community Dinner volunteer group says that if you have a heart to serve, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities still available to help make this BV Strong Community Dinner the smoothest yet! Volunteers interested in helping to set up the event are asked to meet at 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23 on Main Street. Volunteers who can help clean up and tear down the event, are asked to stay behind after the dinner has finished at 7 p.m. To sign up to be a volunteer, visit BV Strong’s official website and click the “Help” button at the top right of the webpage.

The overwhelming success of the BV Strong Community Dinner has inspired similar community dinners in Westcliffe, Eagle and Leadville to form, to emulate the camaraderie and fellowship that has been cultured here in Buena Vista.

If one community dinner a year is not enough, BV Strong encourages people to continue the spirit of community dinners by hosting their own BV Strong-er Neighborhood Dinner, wherever they live. Information, tips, and even downloadable invitations to help create neighborhood dinners can be found here.

To find out more information about the BV Strong Community Dinner, and to sign up for email updates, please visit the official BV Strong webpage.