More than 2,500 Buena Vista residents and visitors descended upon East Main street Sept. 28 for the second annual BV Strong Community Dinner.
“I would trade every expectation I began with for the power to make the most of this moment,” dinner co-organizer and Buena Vista High School principle Brian Yates said, holding back tears during a speech before the dinner.
The sheer number of tables and people was pure spectacle on East Main Street as volunteers walked up and down the line of diners, stretching from Railroad Street to Court Street, passing out rolls and dropping off steaming trays of pulled pork to the nearly 320 tables.
Co-workers and neighbors passed bowls of fruit salad spilling over the brim, strangers and family members exchanged trays of syrupy sweet peach cobbler and gave thanks over glasses of iced tea.
It was pure community.
“I sat down with my family for a few minutes,” Yates said about his time at the dinner. “Mostly, I spent the dinner walking up and down the tables people watching, experiencing the joy of everyone breaking bread together.”
The event was coordinated by a 10-person planning committee, Yates said. Coordinators supervised tasks like food distribution, sound and table decorations to make sure everything went off without a hitch.
“It got real big, really quick,” Yates said about the volunteer effort.
More than 1,000 pounds of pulled pork and 1,000 rolls were cooked by Frontier Ranch, with Yates coordinating the food. Avery-Parsons Elementary School food service also made an additional 2,000 rolls.
“A lot of people on Facebook this morning didn’t know where the food came from,” Yates said. “I’m glad. This wasn’t a town or government function. There were no agendas involved. All we needed were tables, chairs and a main course to remove the barriers for a town dinner.”
Amie Urbine and Leslie Quilico were the communication coordinators for the event. Their job was to assign table numbers and to stay in contact with table hosts.
While Urbine said she spent a lot of time worrying about the specifics of the event, once dinner time rolled around she wanted to be present and unburdened to spend time with friends, neighbors and most importantly her family.
“I wanted to make sure that once it was here, I was making the most of the moment and not worrying about logistics,” Urbine said.
Urbine also said that in her job as seating coordinator, many of the table numbers were often just names and email addresses without faces.
“It was incredible for me to put faces with the table numbers and to see the variety of people seated at those tables,” Urbine said.
Quilico said her dream for next year would be to stretch the dinner from the railroad tracks all the way down to the river.
“Maybe we can even inspire other communities to do a similar kind of gathering,” Quilico said.
Walking up and down the tables during dinner was a reminder of the love and diversity within Buena Vista, Urbine said.
“It’s one of the most unique dinners in the west,” Susan Klinsing, a volunteer for the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce, said.
Buena Vista school district superintendent Sue Holmes said it was the best event of the year.
Daniel and Clarice Hamme said the dinner was a unique opportunity for everyone in town, but they didn’t get to spend much time eating.
“We didn’t each much,” Daniel Hamme said. “We were too busy chasing our son around.”
Wendell Pryor was late getting to the dinner after getting stuck behind a wreck on Trout Creek Pass earlier in the day. He made it just in time, however, to eat with his wife Janine Pryor.
“It really gives the town a Mayberry vibe,” Wendell Pryor said.
Once the dinner was over, volunteers flooded the street to pack up chairs and tables and to begin the clean up process on East Main Street. Yates said there were many people who stayed and helped without being asked to do so.
“In one sense, everyone volunteered,” Yates said.
The BV Strong Community Dinner is still seeking donations on its website, Yates said.
The dinner cost around $9,000 total to feed the 2,500 residents and visitors and Yates said the event stills needs another $4,000 to break even.
To donate, visit www.bvstrong.com/donate.html
Yates also said, interested donors can come by the high school to drop off donations.