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Dinner between neighbors grows to event for more than 2,000

Posted: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hundreds enjoy their free meals.

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What began as a Thanksgiving Day dinner shared by neighbors at the back of a bike shop is now an annual growing tradition in Newhall.

More than 2,000 people filled Main Street south of Market Street on Thursday for the annual Thanksgiving Feast party of dancing, helping and, of course, eating.

Food-serving volunteers lined up behind tables stretching across four store fronts, end to end.

A simple act of neighborly hospitality extended by Shannon and Roger Hasper six years ago has mushroomed into a celebration of sharing, embraced by the entire community.

What was once celebrated at the back of the Haspers’ business, the Newhall Bicycle Co., now it involves all of Newhall.
Street party

By noon Thursday, the space between shops on either side of Main Street was filled with reggae music and the mesquite-scented smoke from industrial-sized wood-burning barbecue grills.

“I’ve been working on this since October,” Shannon Hasper said as she weaved between people walking with paper plates heaped with turkey, potatoes and gravy.

“So, now it’s nice to stand back and watch it all happen, just soak it up,” she said.

As she spoke, a woman darted by carrying two pans covered with tin foil.

“We’re all working together on this,” said tray-toting volunteer Valerie Riccardi.

Her two sons Dominic and Christian, ages 9 and 4 respectively, were nearby — the younger son receiving a face-painted “tattoo.”

Riccardi said she was so impressed with the outpouring of community involvement experienced at her first Thanksgiving Feast last year that she just had to give thanks in her own way this year.

Those were the exact same sentiments expressed by Scot Sweet who also darted between plate holders.

Last year, he was an eater. This year, he was a helper and an eater.

“I said after last year, there was no way I was going to miss this,” Sweet said, who brought his daughter Savannah this year.

Nearby, two young girls working on the serving line at the food table danced to the recorded sound of “Jobe Lamentation,” by reggae artist Majek Fashek.

They were laughing while serving bread to Thanksgiving Feast guests.

“We have catchy slogans,” said Skylar Lagana, 11, proudly.

Her food serving pal, Caitlin Pieper, also 11, said they came up with their own sales pitch slogans to convince dinner guests they should accept bread on their plates.

Volunteer efforts
Thursday’s Thanksgiving event in Newhall could not have happened without the help of Dave Knutson, who works for the city of Santa Clarita, and “Jim” at SCV Rentals, who donated dozens of long tables and chairs.

“We have to say thanks for Dave for closing down the street and for Jim because he’s a small-business owner like Roger and myself.” Shannon Hasper said.

In 2009, attendance for the Hasper Thanksgiving reached about 450 people, a number that doubled last year.

This year, an estimated 2,000 people turned out.

“We prayed for good weather,” Hasper said. “We thought it was going to rain. And, this morning I was just listening for raindrops — and they never came.”

Lagana’s sister 15-year-old Hayley of West Ranch High School and their aunt Laurie Love also helped out on the food line.

“I usually volunteer down in Santa Monica, but I decided to do this here,” Love said.

Hayley Lagana said she’s been helping out since the Thanksgiving Day event took place in the back lot of the Haspers’ Newhall Bicycle Co.


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