When Moab resident Lianna Etchberger’s mother came from Hawaii to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family last year, the two women spent a portion of the day serving up food for WabiSabi’s Thanksgiving community meal.
“She loved it; she had so much fun. We met some new folks,” Etchberger said. “I had heard a lot about (the community meal) and wanted to come. Volunteering is a nice way to be part of a team.”
This year, Etchberger will bring a larger crew of helpers – friends and family from out-of-town, while her husband stays home to cook for more company coming to town later in the day.
Etchberger said she likes the mixture of people who attend, including those who really need a meal; visitors who come for an outdoor excursion and don’t want to cook; and locals who’ve made this their Thanksgiving tradition.
WabiSabi’s 15th annual Thanksgiving community meal takes place Thursday, Nov. 28, from 2-5 p.m. at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West. It’s a festive occasion, open to everyone, where people from all walks of life share a meal together to celebrate the holiday.
Chef Ken Moody will prepare turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all the other traditional fixings, while local restaurants and bakeries donate pies and other pastries. Moab businesses donate utensils, ice, ice cream and cranberries.
WabiSabi is a nonprofit organization that operates a thrift store, proceeds of which benefit local charities. The annual meal is something the organization enjoys doing for the entire community. The Moab Chamber of Commerce is joining WabiSabi in sponsoring this year’s event.
“We just really love our community,” said WabiSabi Executive Director Liz Dana. “This is a way for us to gather the community together. It’s just a beloved event.”
Adding to the festive atmosphere will be live music for the entire dinnertime. Dave Seibert kicks off the music at 2 p.m. when he performs a variety of classical, gospel, patriotic and oldies tunes on keyboards. Mike Toninelli, Roger Stone and Charlotte James will each play the accordion, including a song together, Seibert said.
The James family – Bob and Charlotte, and their children – will play multiple instruments, sharing classic tunes including the Thanksgiving hymn “Let All Things Now Living.” Another family, Sonja and Bob Stone, along with their son and daughter, will sing accompanied by cello and violin.
Thus far, the event has never run out of food. This year, organizers expect roughly 800 people to attend. A second buffet line has been added this year to accommodate the growing number of guests each year. Volunteers serve up hot savory dishes; guests help themselves to the dessert and beverage table.
“We prepare for more than the number of people we expect,” Dana said. “We usually have food to give away at the end.”
WabiSabi also remembers individuals who are homebound during the holiday. Volunteers expect to deliver approximately 40 meals to those unable to make the trip to the Grand Center on Thanksgiving Day.
BEACON Afterschool program students have added their own creativity to the event. Plaques displayed on the “Turkey Challenge” sponsorship wall (made from paper plates, construction paper, old vinyl records and a spin art bike) recognize donors. A $250 donation warrants a turkey plaque with the donor’s name; a $100 donation will get you a drumstick, and $50 is equal to a veggie basket. Money raised beyond the cost of hosting the dinner will be distributed amongst WabiSabi’s nonprofit partners.
To volunteer or donate to the event, call 435-259-2553 or email Megan Millar at megan@wabisabimoab. Financial contributions or certificates to local grocers can be mailed to WabiSabi, 160 E. 100 South, Moab, Utah 84532.