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The Sedona Elks Lodge hosts a free Thanksgiving dinnerThanksgiving is more than a celebration of friends and family. It’s an opportunity to welcome in both our neighbors and passing strangers to share food, stories and recipes.

The first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Bay colony wasn’t families in their individual cabins. It was a feast of 53 English men and women and around 90 Wampanoags dining together as a community.

Growing up, my father was on the coaching staff of two Major League Baseball teams. In part, that meant every Thanksgiving, our table was surrounded not only by my parents, grandparents and siblings, but also “stragglers,” as my mother called them — those who couldn’t make it home or had nowhere to go. Often we’d have more than one. Our typical dinner party would include an infielder from San Francisco, a third-base coach from Denver and a pitcher from Cuba.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamMy personal favorite was the four players from the Dominican Republic who mistakenly thought our pet parakeets and cockatiel might be after-dinner delicacies.

Watching my mother explain in hand gestures and extremely broken Spanish the difference between pets and poultry still makes me smile.

Nine years ago, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in the Verde Valley. Rather than go back to my mother’s home in the Phoenix area, I stayed in the Verde Valley and celebrated with my new group of 20-something friends, most of whom lacked the time or funds or both to make it home. While a first for me, that hodgepodge potluck Thanksgiving was part of a long tradition among my circle of friends and one some of us plan on celebrating again Thursday, Nov. 28.

However, just a few years ago, I saw the holiday through fresh eyes. My then-girlfriend — a Canadian — celebrated her first Thanksgiving in the United States. While Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday on the second Monday in October, our American flavor was new to her.

In looking through our newspaper, she was surprised at the large numbers of local churches, businesses, food banks, nonprofits and clubs offering free turkeys, full dinners or financial assistance to individuals and families in need, even though Sedona is a relatively small city.

This Thanksgiving, rather than just your extended family and friends, invite your neighbors to join.

Attend or volunteer at one of the Thanksgiving banquets the Verde Valley offers, many of which we have written stories about in our newspapers. Donate a turkey, turducken or tofurkey to a food bank or nonprofit.

Just stay away from the parakeets.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor













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