Thanksgiving dinner for 25,000 guests

Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:49pm EST
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Nervous about cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people? One family, with the help of 4,000 volunteers, is preparing turkey and all the trimmings for a guest list expected to exceed 25,000.

The Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner, which is now in its 32nd year, is a tradition in San Antonio, Texas.

It is held each Thanksgiving Day in a huge ballroom at the city's Convention Center and features volunteers basting more than 500 plump turkeys, whipping huge vats of mashed potatoes, and digging into a stack of yams that towers to the ceiling.

The food is either donated or paid for by donors and the dinner is free with no tax dollars subsidizing the event.

"We're ready to feed the people," said Patricia Jimenez, whose father, the late restaurant owner Raul Jimenez, started the tradition of a community Thanksgiving dinner in 1979, when he noticed as he delivered turkey to homebound senior citizens how many people spent the Thanksgiving holiday alone.

Since then, it has grown into one of the largest regularly scheduled Thanksgiving dinners in the United States.

"You can't grow up in San Antonio without knowing the significance of the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner," Mayor Julian Castro said at a news conference.

Volunteers are never hard to find. Rotary Clubs, businesses and neighborhoods organize regiments of volunteer cooks, dishwashers and servers, who spend their Thanksgiving Day not watching football on TV, but making sure this treasured tradition remains a success.   Continued...