COVID forces changes to community Thanksgiving


FORT MADISON – The committee that puts on the annual Community Thanksgiving dinner has fought through the adversity of COVID-19 and will still hold the event this year.

With COVID numbers surging and 138 new positive cases in Lee County over the weekend, Fort Madison Chamber Coordinator Savanna Collier said the event will look different for sure, but it the committee said the event is too valuable to the residents to cancel.

“When we first started we didn’t even know if we’d be able to do it because we knew we couldn’t get into the school,” Collier said.

The Fort Madison High School has been the launching pad for the community dinner for the past several years, but an abundance of caution has that facility off limits this year.

Collier said the committee put their minds together to find other options and initially struck out at other places with kitchens sufficient to prepare the meals.

“We were just racking our brains – where was a good spot, who has a big enough kitchen, how are we going to cook all this food – and then the pieces all just started falling together,” she said.

The group reached out to Iowa State Penitentiary and the Eagles and both of those organizations stepped up to help keep the event moving.

The prison has offered to do most of the cooking and will be roasting and pulling all the turkeys, and cooking the mashed potatoes.

The Eagles will offer space for delivery and take out, and for preparing the green bean casserole. Roasters will hold the hot food. Fort Madison Community Hospital is donating all the dinner rolls and the committee will be making the green bean casserole at the Eagles Club.

Due to coronavirus mitigation guidelines from local and state health officials, the committee can’t accept any pies or desserts as donations. However cash donations are still valuable to the sustainability of the event.

Meals can be ordered starting Wednesday Nov. 11th through Nov. 23 by calling the Thanksgiving hotline at 319-318-2245 to reserve delivered or carry-out meals. That number can also be used to volunteer to help on that day.

Collier said the biggest demand for volunteers may be in delivering food throughout the community.

This year’s meal will have reduced offerings due to the constraints imposed on the committee by the coronavirus. Meals will include turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner roll and a cookie.

Carry outs will be available from noon to 2 p.m.

Things keep rolling into the holidays right after Thanksgiving with the annual Lighted Parade taking place downtown beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday and then Mistletoe on Main Street is Saturday Nov. 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. downtown.

Collier said there are lots of new additions to this year’s event including live reindeer on site. The Enchanted Forest will be open following the parade at it’s new location behind Aldi. This year the annual Christmas Tree display will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays through Dec. 15 and Saturdays through Dec. 19.

The annual Wine & Beer Walk is still slated for Nov. 20, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in downtown. The pre-sale glass event is Wednesday Nov. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Partner’s new office at 614 7th Street, where glasses will be just $10. After the presale, price goes to $15.

For more information on any of the above events, contact the Chamber at 319-372-5471.

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