The 27th annual Christmas Friendship Dinner served hot food and buttery rolls to Alaskans in need of food, companionship or just good conversation around the dinner table.
The tradition began in 1992 when Wasilla resident Bob Bowers cooked six turkeys on Christmas day for 67 residents at the Wasilla Senior Center. Since then the event has moved to the Curtis Menard Sports Arena in Wasilla and now includes more than 500 volunteers.
These men and women fundraised, planned, prepared, decorated, cooked and served roughly 5,000 meals at the Menard Center in a single afternoon, while delivering hundreds more to homebound friends and neighbors across the Mat-Su.
The event included Alaskans who have no relatives in the state, widows, and others looking for a way to connect to the broader community.
While the festive gathering certainly met the needs of those without means to celebrate Christmas, the event also reached out to anyone who wished to take part in a community celebration of Christmas.
In addition to enjoying free food, hundreds of children visited with Santa and Mrs. Claus to pose for photos and receive gifts. As always, live music was also a staple of the gathering, which both fed those in need and created a lively sense of community and friendship for Alaskans who may be financially stable, but lonely during the holidays. The event included Alaskans who have no nearby relatives, widows, and others looking for a way to connect to the broader community. Alaskans from all walks of life were invited.
As a matter of policy, organizers did not accept any donations at the door. The event was sponsored by the Mat-Su Food Bank.