Sagehen celebration: Sponsor groups gather yearly for ever-growing Thanksgiving feast

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Sponsor group dinners—and reunion dinners—are commonplace at the College; it’s a rare day when at least one such gathering, formal or informal, isn’t seen taking place at either the Frary or Frank dining halls. One feast, however, yearly outperforms the rest:  A pair of sponsor groups, organized by Robert Chew ’14 and Deidre Lee ’14, gather annually to make and serve their own Thanksgiving dinner for the group of approximately 30—this year, 40—friends.

The tradition began four years ago, in the fall of Chew and Lee’s first year at Pomona, when they were in neighboring sponsor groups in Lyon Court. “We were just sitting around right before Thanksgiving,” recalls Lee, “And we were like, ‘We all love this holiday, but it sucks that most of us are going home. We can’t celebrate it together but it’s one of our favorite holidays.’” Then the simple solution took hold: Why not just make their own pre-Thanksgiving dinner?

Easier said than done. “The first year involved a lot of us saying, ‘OK! We’re going to make Thanksgiving dinner! …How do we do that?’ There was a lot of mother-calling,” says Chew, laughing. “No one had any equipment,” adds Lee. “… we had to ask five people before we found one pot. We went to the poster lab and took butcher paper for tablecloths. We looked around campus for berries and rosemary we could use.” On-the-blink residence hall appliances only added to the challenge.

turkey1aStill, the dinner materialized on time and was a great success, prompting the sponsor groups from Lyon 1 East and Lyon 1 West to recreate the event again in the fall of their sophomore and junior years. And it is an event: this year, the students planned to use five ovens (three in the Pomona Residence Hall and two in Sontag Residence Hall) for three full turkeys and accompanying dishes, and most of the prep work was begun two days in advance of the meal. With so many people involved, Chew and Lee used an Excel spreadsheet to organize time and dish commitments.

“Every year it’s gotten a little bit bigger and a little bit crazier because we’ve gotten more comfortable with pulling it off,” says Chew, to which Lee adds, “And we would like to expand it so much more, but we can’t feasibly make a dinner for 60 or 70 people.”

The pair wanted to invite a group of first-year students to this year’s feast, but had to scrap that idea because there just wasn’t enough space and food. “It’d be too many turkeys,” Chew says.

But even if the event is near maximum capacity, Chew and Lee express hope that their tradition will inspire younger sponsor groups to hold similar gatherings. “It’s just a really nice way to keep in contact with the people who made your freshman year special—all four years,” says Lee.

Sitting with Lee in the Coop Fountain, Chew has just finished explaining how each of the friends introduced their most memorable family dishes to the dinner when a female senior approaches, smiling broadly. It turns out that she’s one of the group members, here to ask about bringing pumpkin cookies ( “Go for it!,” Chew and Lee reply). “It’s so nice talking to people about it every year,” says Lee. “It makes me feel really happy that we can do something that everyone is so excited about—and there’s no negativity. Just a nice gathering for all of us.” That, fellow Sagehens, is a sentiment in the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Chirp, chirp—or in this case, gobble gobble!

(Photos by Bryan Matsumoto ’15)

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