By ALVIN REINER
---- — KEENE VALLEY — There’s a reason Keene Central School’s annual Thanksgiving dinner is served family style.
“We really are one big happy family,” Interim Superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston said at the recent event in the school gym.
More than 300 students, parents and community members shared the meal and enjoyed performances by youngsters from the primary grades and kindergarten.
“This has been a long-standing tradition, which started in the ‘30s,” Ford-Johnston said. “This year, we have expanded it to include the parents of kindergartners and high-school seniors.
“It is really a whole community event.”
In promoting the family-style idea, the students were assigned seats so they intermingled with the guests, and older pupils sat with younger ones.
The meal, which featured turkey and all the trimmings, was all locally grown and raised. The majority of the food was obtained from the school’s own garden and from Essex Farms, with supplies Keene Central with fresh food under a Community Supported Agriculture contract.
“It’s all made here, right down to the bread,” Ford-Johnston said.
State Assemblyman-elect Dan Stec, who may have an affinity towards KCS due to the fact that faculty members Darrin Seeley and Laura Eldred were classmates with him in Queensbury, was among the diners.
Molly Ryan attended on behalf of Congressman Bill Owens and read a message from him that told the crowd to be mindful “of all Americans that are still struggling at this time of year.”
The students were very much a part of the celebration, as many older pupils and Student Council members served and cleaned up. Youngsters had also drawn pictures on the paper used to cover the tables.
Students dressed as Native Americans and Pilgrims gave a presentation on the first Thanksgiving, followed by kindergartners discussing the attributes of a turkey in poetic form.
Though none of the six students in KCS’s international program from Brazil, South Korea, Vietnam, Norway, Spain and Taiwan celebrate a thanksgiving as is done in America, they thanked the school, their host families and community for welcoming them and making them feel at home.
“This is perhaps the most cherished tradition we have at Keene Central School,” Ford-Johnston said.
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