Twin Ports Thanksgiving Day Buffet returns to DECC – Reuters

DULUTH – Members of the community are invited to gather again in person for the 33rd annual Twin Ports Thanksgiving Day Buffet at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Those in the Twin Ports area (including Carlton, Cloquet and North Shore) are invited to Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Lake Superior Ballroom.

All meals are free – made possible by the College of St. Scholastica, donors and community supporters. Parking is also free.

Volunteers chop celery for the Twin Ports Thanksgiving Day buffet.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Due to the national turkey shortage this year, a smoked ham dinner will be served instead, including mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, stuffing, vegetables, a bun and cake.

“We usually place an order for 2,000 pounds of turkey in late September, early October, because of the size of the event,” said Monica Hendrickson, who has been the event organizer for the past nine years. . “Due to the bird flu, we couldn’t deliver the turkey on time. Each supplier had a limit of 12 turkeys per order. The ham was the most reasonable price, which was one of the deciding factors. It all comes down to production time.”

St. Scholastica ordered 2,000 pounds of ham through wholesale restaurant food distributor Sysco. More than 800 volunteers help host the community meal, preparing 2,000 pounds of potatoes, just under 1,000 pounds of gravy, 7,000 buns and 6,000 pieces of cake.

Man preparing ham for slicing.
Volunteer Rick Hearsey places a quarter of a ham in a pan in the DECC kitchen.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

According to Hendrickson, the DECC is the only place large enough to hold the event in the Twin Ports area due to its refrigeration capacity and cook time. Its ovens can cook up to 30 turkeys (or in this case, hams) at a time.

Pans of quartered hams.
Quartered hams ready to be sliced ​​sit in pots in the DECC kitchen.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Organizers anticipate an attendance of up to 4,000 people for the first in-person Thanksgiving buffet since the COVID-19 pandemic began. During the event, between 800 and 900 people are gathered in the ballroom at a time, she said.

“We are so excited to be back in person. The event has been going on for over 30 years. Many people are alone on Thanksgiving and can come and be part of the community. We look forward to seeing some of the families and people who are regulars,” Hendrickson said. “Inflation has completely changed everybody’s grocery bill. I know there are a lot of families who couldn’t have a great Thanksgiving meal without the free dinner.”

The woman stacks the sliced ​​ham while the man slices the ham.
Mel Winkler stacks slices of ham in a pan while Rick Frost runs a quarter of ham through a slicer. Frost has been a Thanksgiving buffet volunteer for 16 or 17 years. “I like to cook and it seemed like a fun thing to do,” he said. “The good thing is that the people who come to eat are very grateful.”

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Last year meals were only available for pickup and delivery due to COVID-19 precautions. Hundreds of volunteers prepared about 5,000 take-out meals, of which about 1,600 were delivered to homebound people and their caregivers on Thanksgiving morning.

This year, about 1,300 to 1,400 meals will be delivered, an increase from pre-pandemic numbers, which typically ranged between 1,000 and 1,200 meals delivered, Hendrickson said.

A knife slices the celery.
A volunteer slices celery on Monday.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

“In the first year of COVID, the need was there. Last year, when delivering to people who were housebound, we saw more desperation,” Hendrickson said. “The need is much higher than it has ever been. So many people are housebound or on medical treatment and cannot be out in public due to COVID with weakened immune systems.”

Visit or contact [email protected] or 218-723-6484 for more information.

Remaining volunteer positions are listed at, or call the volunteer line at 218-723-6222 with questions.

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