SULTAN —No one eats alone.
The town welcomes one and all to Sultan Harvest. On Thanksgiving Day, a traffic sign along U.S. 2 even beckoned motorists to stop in and dine at the Sultan High School commons.
“This is our community event,” said Christina Sivewright, a board member for Sultan Harvest and a city council member elect. “It’s by the community, for the community.”
The tradition is in its 16th year. Last year, they served more than 600 people. They expected as much or more this time. The town of 5,000 opened the cafeteria from noon to 4 p.m., serving whomever showed up.
Churches, businesses and nonprofits teamed up to pull it off — well over 100 volunteers in all.
“It’s an amazing event,” Michelle Tinney said.
Tinney got her first taste just last year when she moved from Everett to Sultan, where she and her father are opening a bookstore and coffee shop.
“I was just blown away by what a cool event it was,” she said. “Plus, I don’t need to decide which family member’s house I’m going to go to.”
She was so impressed, that she stepped up to be the volunteer coordinator this year.
People help in whatever way they can.
There were pictures with Santa on one end of the cafeteria, a model train set on the other. In another spot, volunteers collected blankets, coats and clothing — donations that were quickly snapped up over the course of the afternoon.
Much of the activity centers around the kitchen.
Nita Lea works as the food-service director for the Sultan School District. For the past several years, she’s also assumed the mantle of chef for Sultan Harvest. She enjoys “the fellowship of the people we see once a year and feeding the community.”
By Lea’s count, they cooked up 39 turkeys, totaling about 475 pounds of bird; 12 hams; 40 pounds of stuffing; 100 pounds of yams; 30 pounds of corn; and 8 gallons of gravy.
Galaxy Chocolates baked pies, one of several businesses that chipped in.
Retirees Dave and Kathy Lutovsky were among the volunteers who spent Wednesday doing prep work in the kitchen. They had to drive through standing water nearly up to their pickup’s headlights Wednesday as they headed down Mann Road into town.
“We had to go through the water just to get here,” Dave Lutovsky said. “We knew we weren’t going to get back. You’re not supposed to go through it, but sometimes you just got to.”
Given the flooding on local rivers, they knew they’d been unlikely to make it back to town for Thanksgiving if they returned home for the night. So they booked a motel room in town.
Bart Dalmasso was celebrating his 78th birthday. He joked that he was born on a historic day: The first Thanksgiving that President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated to fall on the fourth Thursday in November, instead of the last Thursday in November. The change was intended to give retailers more time to sell goods before Christmas.
What was he thankful for? Dalmasso responded with a question.
“You got a couple of days?”
The local real estate broker has been involved in the meal since its first year. For most of that time, he volunteered, but this year he just dined. He appreciated, “just seeing the people, seeing how much it has grown.”
Kristina Blair started volunteering 15 years ago as the person in charge of coat and blanket donations. Blair, who works in a fire district finance department, took on more responsibility over the years. She’s now a board member for the event.
She remembered the early days when they started at City Hall.
“We were pleased back then to get 150 meals out the door,” she said.
They’ve since quadrupled that.
They had to change venues as the event kept grew. After City Hall, they used the local Volunteers of American building. They’re now in the fifth year at the Sultan High School commons.
Every time, there’se more company.