NEW ULM – The Friends of the New Ulm Community Thanksgiving dinner held at St. Mary’s Church on Thursday was well attended, with more than a thousand people taking part in the meal.
This was the 34th Friends of the Community Thanksgiving held in New Ulm and perhaps one of the busiest. Every year, about 1,000 people dine, order takeout, or accept delivery this Thanksgiving holiday. This year, Community Thanksgiving Committee co-chair Les Schultz estimated turnout was closer to 1,100.
For the first time in several years, the volunteers began to run out of food. First the buns ran out, followed by corn and squash. The volunteers were able to buy more bread and found more squash.
Volunteers could not say for sure whether there were more on-site or take-out meals being served.
Pat Booker volunteered as a delivery driver. Meals were taken throughout the community. The most meals delivered to one location was 21.
Booker said the people receiving the deliveries were very grateful. “It’s a good thing we’re doing” she says.
The queue for takeout was constant throughout the meal service, but the food option was high. The entire dining room has been turned over two and a half times. Each table was used at least twice and approximately three times. In previous years, the dining room only turned 1.5 times.
Community Thanksgiving board member Lynn Rowley said it was a hectic and crazy experience, but it was also a lot of fun. With 145 volunteers helping in various parts of the operation, Rowley said the operation was a well-oiled machine.
The preparation of the meal begins on Monday. The first thing prepared is the squash. On Tuesday, some turkeys are roasted and carved. Wednesday has the most preparation with the remaining turkeys being prepared with gravy and dressing. Potatoes are the only things made on Thanksgiving Day, but they are peeled the night before.
The best part is that everyone got to enjoy a holiday meal together. Many families in the area choose to attend the community meal each year. Rowley said there were at least three groups of 15 who attended the dinner this year.
Some of the small groups shared a table. It was not uncommon for several families to share a meal.
People at the meal came from all over the region, not just New Ulm. Ken Page and his mother Beverly Page flew in from St. Paul especially for the meal.
Page said he and his mother preferred a community-style Thanksgiving meal, but the place they usually go to in the Twin Cities was closed this year. Ken searched online for another community Thanksgiving meal and found New Ulm’s meal.
“We like to drive around the country, so we decided to come here”, he said. Ken and Beverly agreed it was a great meal.
The Thanksgiving meal is offered free, but voluntary donations are accepted. There is no suggested donation, people are welcome to donate what they can.
In some years, community friends have lost money on the meal, but generous donations usually cover the expenses.