Church celebrates 50 years of serving turkey

By Helena Rodriguez

PORTALES — Forty roasted turkeys, 24 tubs of dressing, 250 pumpkin pies, 80 gallons of green beans, 500 apples, 100 stalks of celery and 14 gallons of cranberry sauce.
Sounds like enough to feed an army — or about 1,400-plus hungry people expected to attend the 50th annual First United Methodist Church Thanksgiving Dinner and Bazaar on Thursday at the church.
The half-century tradition is considered “the biggest dinner in town,” according to Frankye King, a member of the FUMC Thanksgiving dinner committee. And that’s not just the biggest meal served in town during Thanksgiving. That includes the whole year round, King said.
“It has become quite a social event. It’s a visiting time. Some people who come to the noon meal even come back to the dinner one,” King said and noted that the church serves about the same number of carryout meals as dine-ins.
There are some changes in this annual feast. For one, it will be the first Thanksgiving dinner in the church’s new, adjacent red brick building, which will become FUMC’s permanent home once the historic three-story, yellow brick one facing South Ave C. is demolished, possibly before the end of the year.
Another change: The dinner, always held the second Thursday in November, will see its first price increase in a decade, rising from $6 for an adult plate to $7.
When the annual dinner began in 1953, King said her records show it cost 75 cents a plate, maybe even less, and was served to a crowd of only 50 people.
According to King, it caused a bit of a protest years later when the dinner’s executive committee wanted to raise the price by 50 cents, from 75 cents a plate to $1.25.
“The executive committee only won by one vote,” King said. “Many members didn’t feel anyone would come to the dinner if they raised it by that much.”