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Friends gather in Ronan for free community Thanksgiving dinner

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Nearly 25 volunteers showed up to help make the free annual Ronan Community Thanksgiving dinner as warm and comfortable as a family gathering.

It also took 22 turkeys and 35 pies to feed more than 400 people, and when guests were stuffed, only three pies and a trace of turkey remained.

“I think everybody was very satisfied, and the music was great,” Brennin Grainey said. “People were getting up and dancing and just kind of enjoying the day and enjoying each other’s company.” 

The Ronan holiday tradition began in 1997 by Marie Cowen, who owned Marie’s Café on Main Street. She offered a free turkey dinner, expecting 30 or 40 people to show up at her little restaurant. By noon Cowen ran out of food and began serving burgers and fries. 

Six years later, Cowen was dishing up 900 meals — with no leftovers.

“It took me a week to cook it,” she said. 

That was the last time Cowen took on the task as help came from a caring community. For the past nine years, Ronan Chamber and other individuals have stepped up to the challenge. 

“We’ve done it for so many years, a lot of it takes care of itself,” organizer and chef Cheri Houle said.

And the volunteers were as varied as the pie selection.

Serving on Thanksgiving has become a family tradition for Aspen and Julian Many Hides, Natalie Malaterre and Arlin Potts, who scooped up turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes; Mormon missionaries Kathryn Fikes and Mary Stacey worked behind the scenes scrubbing dishes; and 6-year-old Eli Peterson replenished the pie table, cleared plates, and checked the garbage alongside 7-year-old Sophie Agostinelli.

“My favorite part is running around, looking for tables to wipe off,” Agostinelli said.

By noon, the tables and chairs were filling with neighbors reminiscing and sharing stories. 

“I enjoy hanging out with people,” longtime Ronan resident Jan Johnson said. “This is my family.”

Bear Adams and his wife Judy have plenty of family — more than 240 cousins, according to Bear — but they live some 2,000 miles away. 

“It’s nice that they do this,” Judy Adams said, while Bear admitted his wife is much more social than he is — especially around large family crowds. 

“He calls it chaos. I call it fun,” Judy replied.



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