This week, Mathers will again host Thanksgiving dinner for all
Tom Mathers can’t even remember how far back the restaurant and bar started its yearly Thanksgiving dinner for the community.
His dad, the founder of Mathers Bar, was hosting neighbors for holidays with free dinners as far back as Mathers could remember, even before he and his brother took over the business 52 years ago. This Thursday will just be an extension of a generations-old tradition.
But it will be a special day, nonetheless, as the Thanksgiving feast, free for all who want to come, is returning after a couple of years’ hiatus.
“We’ve always done Christmas dinner,” Tom Mathers said. “It started because too many people were coming into my dad’s business and saying, ‘Everything’s closed. There’s no place to eat.’ So he started that, and, at one time, it got really big. Thanksgiving — we did that for years — but we quit two years ago because the year before, we didn’t have anybody. We cooked all these turkeys and nobody showed up, and then last year, with COVID, that put us out on that.”
The time felt right to return to the November tradition of feeding anyone in the community who’s looking for good food and company on the holiday of gratitude, he said. This time, it came with a nudge from inside the house.
“My wife, Stacey, is over at Cornerstone Realty,” Mathers said. “Well, somebody texted and said, ‘Do you know of any place serving Thanksgiving dinner for one?’ My wife said that we should have Thanksgiving dinner again — invite anybody without somewhere to go. Cornerstone will buy all the food. I’ll cook it, and we’ll use our place. I said that’s a great idea.”
After a year-plus of too much isolation, Mathers is ready to be open again on the day most other places will be closed.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving,” Mathers said. “The COVID shutdowns — that took a toll on people. Part of surviving is mingling with people. You’ve got to have contact.”
The dinner will be scaled down a bit from the old days. Just a few years ago, Mathers cooked 11 turkeys and five hams, he said, but few people came, so whole 20-pound turkeys went home with anybody who could take them. This year, he’s planning on three 20-pound birds and about as many hams, plus all the trimmings, of course.
“We used to tell people to bring a covered dish if you want,” Mathers said “But my wife said, ‘This year let’s do the whole thing.’ So that’s what we’re doing.”
Even though Mathers is doing most of the cooking, the return of this twice-annual event for the bar excites him.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a good feeling,” he said. “It’s to give somebody something and expect nothing back. That’s a really good feeling.”
For the family, this isn’t just a gift. It’s an opportunity.
“People here have been part of our lives forever,” Mathers said. “I was born and raised here in Craig. I’ve seen generations go through in my business — the moms, dads, getting married, the kids, then grandkids. It becomes one big family, Craig does. Why would I set my table if there wasn’t enough to go around?”
Mathers invites families as much as individuals, he said, with the hope that all will come together and share the joy and the feast.
“We have no strangers,” he said. “We need everybody. It’s just — all the people there I’ve known from somewhere or other, and the ones I don’t, I’ll know from that dinner.”
A group prayer will be said before dinner at around 1 p.m., Mathers said, and then food will be served.
“At Christmas, we’ll do it again,” Mathers said with a chuckle. “My son-in-law and daughter come up then, so I’ll have some help at least.”
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