Nobody quite remembers what year the South Whidbey Elementary School Harvest Feast started but they’re certain it will continue as long as kids are kids.
And besides, it’s always a new experience for somebody.
Such as the Tower family who came to their first Harvest Feast last Thursday, joining some 600 other family members and friends of students who came in by grades, kindergarten through sixth, regularly on the hour.
“It’s really incredible,” said Anna Tower, sitting with her husband, Lee, and 5-year-old son, Matthew.
Starting at 10 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m., moms and dads filed through, taking a break from jobs, wearing a variety of work clothes, construction boots mixed with suits.
Little brothers and sisters held hands and looked in awe around the gym turned out in its festive Thanksgiving best, complete with tablecloths.
Cafeteria staff cooked for two days preparing dishes but still sounded in good cheer when greeting taller-than-usual diners.
“It’s fun, I enjoy it,” said Patti Dunigan, head cook. “It’s fun doing something different.”
About 200 pounds of turkey breast were served, accompanied by mountains of stuffing, cranberries, green beans, dinner rolls, and of course, tiny cartons of milk.
The cafeteria meal cost $5 for adults.
Served gratis on the side were the results of the farm-to-harvest feast experiment. For the first time in the four-year South Whidbey School Farms Program, a team of fifth and six-graders and one home-schooled student learned how to prepare several Thanksgiving side dishes in proportions not to be duplicated at home.
Kenesha Mills, who ate alongside her daughter, Maleka, age 6 and in kindergarten, sounded surprised about the dishes created by the farm team who spent about nine weeks harvesting and preparing mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies and a raw root vegetable salad with kale and apples.
“I don’t normally eat kale, but I’m eating it all,” Mills said. “It’s just delicious.”
Mills said she was impressed by the organization and how smoothly lines of people were fed and then moved on out for the next bunch. (Kids knew that extended play time outside was a treat just for them.)
“I’ve never been to it. It’s really a good family event,” Mills said.
Some 75 pounds of mashed potatoes were running low by 1 p.m. so kids serving the farm sides were told to lessen the mounds in the ice cream scoops.
“This seemed a big puzzle for me to put together,” remarked Tran Hoang, farm apprentice.
“I had to figure what needed to be harvested first, what dishes could be frozen and lead the food prep in classes lasting less than one hour,” she said. “But they did all the work. They really liked measuring things and learning the assembly of ingredients.”
The team of 13 prepared their last dish — fresh, delicious whipped cream to go atop their 88 pumpkin pies made from pumpkins plucked from the school’s backyard vegetable garden.
“Today, it’s pretty much been a flawless execution,” Hoang said with a smile.