A Thanksgiving dinner that can’t be beat

Approximately 500 islanders are expected to attend the San Juan Island Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Mullis Senior Center this year. The feast begins at noon, Nov. 24, and lasts till 5 p.m., and there is no cost.

“During the pandemic, [in 2020] we tried take-out, but that didn’t go well. Last year we had outdoor seating and take-home. We are back to indoor dining this year, and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Margie Aipopo said who has volunteered for the dinner for the last five years. This year she stepped up to help organize.

How did Aipopo get so involved with the annual Thanksgiving community dinner?

“I don’t really cook turkey anymore since my family is all grown,” she said. “I didn’t really have anything to do, so I thought I’d volunteer. I really enjoy it.”

Her story resonates with how the event originally began. over twenty years ago, founders Jim and Minnie Kynch decided to gather their island family together for Thanksgiving. Under their direction, the event grew into the popular celebration it is today. Over the last few years, Kevin and Diana Porter, who had volunteered for many years, took over organizing and kept the beloved event alive. This year, Diana has not been able to participate, however, several volunteers, including Aipopo, have stepped up. Their shopping list covers ingredients for a 500-person feast.

Kings Market donated 48 turkeys, which will be available for volunteers to pick up at Aloha Friday Harbor Barbeque, Aipopo’s restaurant, Wednesday, Nov. 23. Aipopo expressed gratitude toward Kings noting the huge expense. The turkeys will be prepped, and come with cooking instructions. On Thanksgiving, volunteers deliver the turkey to the Mullis Senior Center at specific times.

In order to pull off the feast that can not be beat, assistance from the community is essential. Last year it took 120 volunteers to make the event a success. Bakers can sign up to make a variety of pies; desserts can be dropped off at the Mullis Center at the volunteer’s time of choice. People are also needed to assist in preparing and serving the food on Thanksgiving.

Local service clubs have contributed financially, but donations are always welcome. Aipopo explained that in part due to the service clubs, the event isn’t in a dire financial situation. A donation jar to collect for next year will be available, however.

This year organizers will be trying out a few new recipes that were donated by someone who attended in past years.

“I’m so excited to try them out, but it will be a surprise,” Aipopo said.

Her favorite part of the event is hearing the chatter of islanders bumping into one another and catching up.

“The chatter has been missing over the last two years. It will be good to get that back,” Aipopo said.

To learn more about the dinner, and to sign up, visit https://islandthanksgiving.weebly.com/.

Contributed photo by the SJI Community Dinner
Time for dessert!
Contributed photo by the SJI Community Dinner
Islanders gather at a Thanksgiving Dinner a few years ago, at the Mullis Senior Center