The first Thanksgiving was a community dinner, and Wadena continues to have its own.
The 21st annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held at the M State cafeteria on Thursday, Nov. 25. Along with the change in venue, it has a change in leadership.
"We used to hold this at the high school commons," organizer Rich Paper said. "I've been in control of it the last 10 years, and now I am passing the torch to Paul [Hunke]."
Another change is extended hours -- 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- due to more limited seating at M State.
The menu includes turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and candied yams, cranberry sauce, rolls and butter, assorted pies, coffee and milk.
The Singing Grandmas -- Jane Weber and Mary Lehmkuhl -- will provide entertainment, along with Miss Wadena Hanna Larson.
Hunke said about 350 meals are served on site each year, and another 150 meals are delivered.
The dinner is free, but donations may be given to the food shelf.
Unplated leftover food is also given to the food shelf.
Paper talked about the change in leadership.
"I saw an opportunity to institutionalize it so that it wouldn't just be dependent on one person," Paper said. "It's now tied up more to the service groups in town than it was before. They've always supported it, but now they're taking an active role in managing it."
Hunke said that after seeing the previous year's Thanksgiving dinner, he decided he wanted to be involved with it in the future.
"Rich came to us and he was looking for someone to step in," he said. "I thought, I can always take more on the plate, why not?" He said he had experience putting other events together.
Hunke, who grew up in Wadena and spent his childhood near Oink Joint Road, went to North Dakota State University and moved back to his hometown to work at the family business, Hunke's Transfer, and get involved in volunteer activities.
"As soon as I came back here, I joined the Wadena Lions and just started being more involved with the community," he said.
Hunke said that volunteers for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner enjoy it and keep showing up year after year.
Paper and Hunke said the Community Thanksgiving Dinner is organized by an informal committee and draws participation from a variety of service groups and individuals.
"We need servers and dish washers and pie cutters and people to help prepare the food," Paper said.
"A lot of people will come in, sit down and have a meal, and then help for half hour, 15 minutes, or even an hour, and then go on their way," Hunke said.
"Everybody can come and volunteer," Paper said.
After volunteering for the dinner since the mid 1990s and running it for the past decade, he said he hopes to keep helping out but will be out of town and miss it for the first time this year.
He said that he had enjoyed working on the community Thanksgiving dinner over the years.
"I would like to thank all the people that have helped me and helped to make this success," Paper said.
Those interested in volunteering can call Hunke at (218) 639-5067.
For home delivery of meals, call Paper at (328) 631-2617.