1,000 meals served at Thanksgiving Dinner
NEW ULM — The New Ulm Community Friends Thanksgiving Dinner held at St. Mary’s Church Thursday was well attended, with over a thousand people partaking in the meal.
This was the 34th Community Friends Thanksgiving held in New Ulm and possibly one of the busiest. Each year, roughly 1,000 people dine in, order take-out, or accept delivery from this Thanksgiving feast. This year, Community Thanksgiving committee co-chair Les Schultz estimated attendance was closer to 1,100.
For the first time in several years, volunteers began running out of food. First, the rolls ran out, followed by corn and squash. Volunteers were able to purchase more bread and found more squash.
Volunteers could not say for certain if there were more dine-in or take-out meals served.
Pat Booker volunteered as a delivery driver. Meals were taken throughout the community. The most meals delivered to a single location was 21.
Booker said the people receiving the deliveries were very appreciative. “It is a good thing we do,” she said.
The line for take-out was constant throughout meal service, but the dine-in option was high. The entire dining room area was turned over two and a half times. Each table was used at least twice and some three times. In previous years, the dining room only turns over 1.5 times.
Community Thanksgiving board member Lynn Rowley said it was a hectic and crazy experience, but it was also really fun. With 145 volunteers helping in various parts of the operation, Rowley said the operation was a well-oiled machine.
Preparation for the meal begins on Monday. The first thing prepared is the squash. On Tuesday some of the turkeys are roasted and carved. Wednesday has the most preparation with the remaining turkeys prepared along with gravy and dressing. Potatoes are the only things made on Thanksgiving day, but they are peeled the day before.
The best part is everyone was able to enjoy a holiday meal together. Many area families choose to attend the community meal every year. Rowley said there were at least three groups of 15 that attended the dinner this year.
Some of the smaller groups shared a table. It was not unusual for multiple families to share a meal.
People attending the meal came from all over the region, not just New Ulm. Ken Page and his mother Beverly Page came from St. Paul specifically for the meal.
Page said he and his mother prefer a community-style Thanksgiving meal, but the place they usually attend in the Twin Cities was closed this year. Ken searched online for another community Thanksgiving meal and learned about New Ulm’s meal.
“We like a good drive in the country so we decided to come here,” he said. Ken and Beverly agreed it was an excellent meal.
The Thanksgiving meal is offered free of charge, but free-will donations are accepted. There is no suggested donation, people are asked to donate what they can.
Some years the Community Friends have lost money on the meal, but generous donations usually cover the expenses.