Thanksgiving in Moab: How a small potluck morphed into dinner for hundreds

By Anthony Militano • The Times-Independent

One of the highlights of the year for locals is the annual Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by WabiSabi. Nara Bopp-Williams, the store’s program director, shared some fun facts about the annual tradition.

“It started off as a way to bring people in Moab together in the off-season for Thanksgiving,” she said. “It was a much smaller, potluck affair and over the years it’s grown into a huge ordeal at the Grand Center.”

The feast is no longer a small, potluck affair. Quite the opposite. Hundreds are served and the food is prepared onsite.

“We generally feed over 600 people, she said. “ This year [we cooked] enough for 800.”

Bopp-Williams said the meals are free and open to everyone. “There’s people who come from all walks of life,” she said. “There’s no requirement that you have to be down and out or in a shelter or anything like that. It’s just for everyone. So, we have the mayor come and we have a lot of people from the community and people meet across the table for the first time … and that’s really cool.”

Volunteers deliver meals to the homebound, and what a meal it is.

“The Grand Center is a commercial kitchen,” explained Bopp-Williams. “We have a chef [Ken Moody of Private Moab Chef] who gives a lot of time and energy to this meal; he has a crew in the back roasting 400 pounds of turkey and all of the fixings.

“We have him prepare most of the food. We also have community partners and other businesses donate desserts and coffee, juice, half-and-half and all of those things. So, we have over 30 different businesses that give in-kind donations. In addition to that, we had over 70 different businesses and individuals give financial donations ahead of time. People generally give at the door, as well.”

Bopp-Williams made it clear WabiSabi also donates to the feast.

“It’s not a fundraiser for us. We don’t make any money off of it. It’s something we do for the community. All the money we make goes back into feeding people next year,” which will be the 15th annual event – and everybody’s already invited.

Businesses might give the most, but Moab’s young and old are more than willing to roll up their sleeves.

“We had over 100 volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. We have several volunteers in their 80s … we used to have one in her 90s, but she can’t make it out that much anymore. We had a 4-year-old running around, handing out stickers last year. We take pretty much anyone. Families are welcome. The dishwasher volunteers have to be ready to work really hard and then we have positions that are more family friendly, so we try to fit people where they are most able to help,” said Bopp-Williams.