The Crookston Annual Thanksgiving Dinner returns on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Crookston Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This year, folks can choose to dine in or reserve take-out meals.

Lester Wilkens is entering his 35th year of coordinating the event. The event started back in the old St. Anne’s church by six different families. They got together with extra food that they had left and thought, next year, why not put it all together and advertise for the people who don’t have anyone to be with or have the means to provide a proper Thanksgiving experience?

“This is the 45th year for the six families that started it a long time ago,” said Wilkens, “they did it because they didn’t want to waste food because everybody has leftovers for Thanksgiving. So they combined the six families and took the money they were going to spend, put it in a pile, and one person bought the food and then prepared it.”

The Golden Link Senior Center will help prepare the food this year, along with Wilkens and the five other families involved with the event. All of the food will be purchased from Hugo’s Family and Marketplace in Crookston, besides the potatoes, which will come from a potato farm out of Grand Forks. Wilkens stated they would prepare just over 150 pounds of potatoes.

“The last couple of years, the Golden Link has helped us with preparing the turkeys,” said Wilkens, “This will all be prepared ahead of time; everything we take up to the Cathedral Church and stock into the freezers and refrigerators the day before.”

Wilkens explained that last year was the largest attendance he had seen since participating in the event, feeding over 400 community members. Thanksgiving morning, Wilkens and staff arrive at the church at 9:00 a.m. to prepare the food. The night before, the peeling of the potatoes takes place.

Wilkens also added that this is a social function and not a religious function by any Crookston church; all are welcome and invited to attend.

“We’ve had a lot of encouragement from the people coming through,” said Wilkens, “People who have expressed that they don’t have the means well; it’s a free meal, we just want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to enjoy Thanksgiving.”

Free-will donations are accepted at this event. Still, Wilkens mentioned that nobody is obligated to donate, and the sole purpose of this event is to create the opportunity for everybody in the community to enjoy Thanksgiving with a home-cooked meal and the company of others.

“People think free will donations are necessary,” said Wilkens, “If we get too much, we’re not going to hoard it. We’re not here to hoard but to support the community. Some money goes back to the food basket and Trinity for Christmas.”

This year, the event will include drive-thru services from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the dine-in services will occur right after from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

You can call Lester Wilken’s home phone at 218-281-5727 to reserve your traditional Thanksgiving meal. Just leave a message stating how many people you plan on showing up with so there can be preparation to make the right amount of food.


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