Thanksgiving dinner brings neighbors together
The hundreds of people who spent Thanksgiving at the annual dinner showed why Crescent City is a towncommunity.
Approximately 100 volunteers helped prepare the mounds of Thanksgiving fare, washed dishes, served food and drinks and about 650 people put their support for the work where their stomachs are.
This was the 21st year the dinner was held, which has grown from serving 200 people in its early years at the Cultural Center to moving to the Del Norte County Fairgrounds to accommodate the roughly 700 people on average who have attended over the past several years - this year had a smaller turnout likely due to the sunny weather, said Teri Sandler, one of the dinner's organizers and founders.
"You need a hug and a medal," said one of the volunteers to Sandler in the back area of the building where the food was being prepared.
Sandler is quick to redirect praise to the community members who help keep this donation-based dinner cooking.
"It takes the whole community to do it," said Sandler. "We all have something to be thankful for, and this is the day we do it and it's the whole community. We've seen kids grow up here, and now they're helping us."
This year's donations from Cholwell, Benz and Hartwick helped ensure enough turkeys to serve 900. Locals donated the sides: yams, green beans and mashed potatoes. And the Wild Rivers Foundation and Walmart gave monetary donations that helped supplement a shortage of cranberry sauce and stuffing.
"The food? Are you kidding? I have all of my favorite foods," said resident Wes Wesson while looking down at his plate.
Volunteers in aprons and blue rubber gloves walked the aisles of tables, offering to fill empty cups with lemonade, orange-flavored drink, coffee and water. And they had pies.
"You have to beat those servers off with a stick," said Wesson laughingly.
Wesson eventually spotted a familiar face milling about, Gary Morris, who came to sit down across from him.
The two joked and caught up on their lives amid thesound of contemporary music belted out by a live band.
"For years I had put on a huge Thanksgiving dinner," said Morris. "There's less drama this way."
He was sitting without a plate in front of him while Wesson ate.
"I'll wait for the first-liners to go through ... and then go home and try to explain to my dogs where I've been," said Morris.
Attendees can take multiple trips through the food line and even take home plates of food.
"This is my first time to be out here," said Paul McFarland. "I wanted to see what the community is like."
He said the diversity of the crowd surprised him.
"I expected more of a crowd of homeless," said McFarland. "I've seen everybody."
The varying stratum of the community was in attendance from the people who have hit hard times to community leaders.
"We appreciate it a lot," said Darlene Rooney, McFarland's partner. "It's done out of pure love."
Rooney, who has attended before, brought McFarland to introduce to friends.
Then there were the large families who sat among the crowd, socializing and eating without worrying about dealing with the aftermath of piled dishes.
Longtime residents Tom and Deanna Bowdish brought a couple of generations of their family to the dinner. The fourteen of them almost filled an entire banquet table that included their nine grandchildren.
It was their first time. They were postponing Thanksgiving dinner until the weekend, when a daughter would be released from the hospital after giving birth.
"My sister comes down here all of the time," said Tom Bowdish, adding that she insisted they try it. "She said they treat you like family."
Reach Anthony Skeens at firstname.lastname@example.org.