Giving, receiving thanks: a coveted E-town tradition
As volunteers fasten festive aprons around their middles and students file, expectantly, into the Baugher Student Center (BSC), the unmistakable and heady aroma of turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie thrills the senses, triggering taste buds to attention.
For at least the past 35 years, Elizabethtown College has gathered together the campus community for a special holiday feast, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Volunteers assist Dining Services employees in serving students who pull up to cloth-draped tables in the Marketplace or the KAV.
Thanksgiving Dinner, in its simple warmth, is tradition right down to the buttery blueberry bread.
You’d have dinner first with your E-town family before you went home to have dinner with your other family.”
Liz Braungard, executive director in the Office of Marketing and Communications, recalls with a broad smile, the E-town Thanksgiving celebrations when she was a student in the mid-1980s. “We got all dressed up,” she said of attending the dinners served, at that time, in the “caf” of the Elizabeth Myer Resident Hall.
“All of us were traipsing through the Dell in high heels, which, I can tell you, tends to be a challenge,” she said laughing. “You’d go to the caf every day, but there was something special about that night. … You’d have dinner first with your E-town family before you went home to have dinner with your other family.”
Lynda Hudzick, office manager in Dining Services, remembers working during the College’s Thanksgiving Dinner when she was a high school student employee 30-plus years ago. “I know it started before that, over in Myer,” she said. “It’s always been served family style by volunteers.”
At one time a whole turkey was placed out on the tables to share, but when Dining Services moved to the BSC a switch was made to carved turkey due to lack of oven space and to avoid waste. “Many times the whole turkeys came back to the kitchen with a very small amount of meat used, and they would have to be thrown away according to ServSafe standards and food safety laws,” Hudzick said.
Now the turkey is carved at a central station. Heaping platters of meat are carried to the tables on big platters, with bowls of mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, green beans and cranberry sauce, and alongside warm rolls, two kinds of pie and two kinds of dessert breads. In more recent years, students can request vegetarian selections in place of the traditional turkey.
In early November a call for volunteers goes out through Campus News and the alumni email newsletter, and faculty and staff members, alumni, and a large number from John Gross & Co., the College’s primary food supplier, sign up to lend their time serving the early shift, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., or the late shift, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Some energetic souls take on both shifts, and are thanked by receiving a special turkey apron to wear each year as they serve.
Several campus community volunteers sign up family members, too. Braungard, who said she has served a double shift for the past three years, brought her 15-year-old daughter, in 2012. “She loved it,” said Braungard, adding that Sara would have been here this year if it wasn’t for her after-school job.
To top off the evening of serving, talking, laughing and getting to know students and other volunteers, all helpers are treated to their own turkey dinner before, between or after shifts.
The Thanksgiving Dinner, more than any other event on campus, said Hudzick, is perennially mentioned as a student favorite. “It’s something the alumni seem to remember for years.”
This year, based on the number of students who reserved a seating time, Dining Services has prepped:
- 1,283 pounds turkey
- 768 pounds mashed potatoes
- 180 pounds stuffing
- 240 pounds corn
- 240 pounds green beans
- 144 pounds cranberry sauce
- 132 dozen rolls
- 992 slices pumpkin pie
- 576 slices apple pie
- 256 loaves blueberry bread
- 250 loaves corn bread
The Office of Marketing and Communications is calling for you to share your photos and updates from this event—and Thanksgiving itself—on Twitter and Instagram using #thanksetown. You may also send images to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are not able to share on social media.