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Fort Dodge Ford carries on tradition

November 25, 2011
Messenger News


Messenger staff writer

Several years ago, Casey Johnson was having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with his family at home.

Article Photos

Casey Johnson, right, helps Elaine Janssen, left, and her daughter Sue, center, find a good seat Thursday afternoon during the annual Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota that he hosts on the showroom floor of his dealership.

As they celebrated, someone had a suggestion.

"Let's do something different," he said, "Why don't we serve Thanksgiving dinner in the showroom."

The idea became reality and now, in it's third year, the sales floor at Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota is full of tables, diners, guests, volunteers and family on Thanksgiving.

He expected to serve about 700 people this year.

"The more the merrier," he said.

Sharon Arndt, of Fort Dodge, was one of over 100 volunteers who helped out.

"I wanted to volunteer," she said, "Then I decided on here."

Her job?

"Whatever they need done." she said.

That included keeping cups full of apple cider, milk or coffee and putting up with some good natured banter from Jim Bothe and Rick Anderson, both of Fort Dodge.

"They knew I was going to be here," she said after giving them a hug and big smile.

Sue Janssen and her mom Elaine helped serve last year and were dining this year.

Without the dinner?

"We would be eating something out of the freezer," Elaine Janssen said.

For Virgie Henrich, who makes up the high end of "From one to 99," it was an opportunity to spend some time with her family members who also attended.

"It's nice to get out," she said.

While Henrich may have been the oldest guest, the volunteer to came the furthest is likely to be Casey Johnson's sister Connie. She's visiting from Victorville, Calif.

"He put me to work as soon as I got here," she said, "I'm glad to be helping."

The meal is prepared by students from the Iowa Central Community College Culinary Arts program. One of those, Maria Francois, of Barnum, gave up Thanksgiving dinner with her family to help.

She also gave up something else, a bit of sleep.

"I got here at seven in the morning," she said.

Chef Michael Hirst, director of the Culinary Arts program, had no problem getting help.

"I asked for volunteers," he said, "The whole class raised it's hands."

He was impressed with their willingness to give of their time.

"There was no me, me, me, me," he said.

There was also no danger of running out of food either.

"We used 38 turkeys, 120 pounds of mashed potatoes, 80 pounds of green beans and 20 gallons of gravy," he said.

That's just some of it.

The cranberry sauce -homemade and thus missing the traditional can ring - required 80 8-ounce bags of cranberries.

Nobody left hungry.

Contact Hans Madsen at (515) 573-2141 or



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