ST. GEORGE — Thousands of community members and out-of-town visitors gathered at the Red Rock Canyon School at 747 E. St. George Blvd., in St. George Thursday for the school’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner.
The dinner opened to the public at 11 a.m. and lasted until 4 p.m. It was Red Rock Canyon School’s 41st annual Thanksgiving dinner, Frank Habibian, the school’s owner, said. The first one was held in 1973.
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Videocast by Devan Chavez, St. George News
While Habibian was the primary organizer of the dinner, a large part of the credit goes to the community volunteers, he said.
“The people of St. George are very generous, very wonderful and very great people,” Habibian said.
In 2012, the turnout for the dinner was more than 2,000 people, and approximately 3,000 attended in 2013, Habibian said. While the exact number who attended this year’s dinner was not yet determined, Habibian estimates it was about 3,500.
Some volunteers at this year’s dinner traveled from other cities. DeAnn Fieselman, a first-time volunteer at the dinner, said she moved to New Harmony from California in July of this year , and was surprised by the lack of community dinners in the Southern Utah area.
In an effort to be of service to her new community, Fieselman decided to find a place where she could help out this holiday season. In her mind, she said, events like the school’s Thanksgiving dinner can bring light into the lives of those who may not have a typical Thanksgiving celebration.
“It’s wonderful for people who have no place to go, or they have no family in town,” Fieselman said. “Then they can gather with a big group and feel a little camaraderie.”
About 100 volunteers helped with the dinner, the lead chef for the event, Ron Nia, said. Half of the volunteers gathered in the school’s kitchen Wednesday night and began preparing approximately 200 turkeys. The turkeys that were not cooked Wednesday night were cooked on Thanksgiving morning.
Nia said he has been involved in the event for the last 17 years, and that while the food may be a draw to some who attend, what really brings people to the dinner is the opportunity to come together for a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.
With 41 years of community dinners to his credit, Habibian said he plans on hosting another celebration next year, and will continue the tradition for as long as he can.
“I’m going to be doing this job until the end of my life,” Habibian said. “When I die, I hope my children will try and keep it going.”
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