Larry Jakubiak

Larry Jakubiak, in front of Pat's Bar and Grill in Hotchkiss, has been the driving force behind the North Fork Community Dinners since 2007. 

As the days grow shorter and the leaves begin their descent, folks in the North Fork Valley begin to gear up for two special North Fork Community Dinners courtesy of Larry Jakubiak and company.

“Community involvement for these holiday meals is amazing,” Jakubiak said. “There are so many people who don’t have any where to go and this creates a family feeling.”

The holiday tradition can be dated back quite a few years, but the current cook and master planner generally looks to around 2006-07 as the beginning of the modern holiday feast era.

During his tenure, Jakubiak said they’ve served 2,204 meals from 2007 to 2020.

“I make everything out of my house,” said the former business owner and mayor of Hotchkiss.

Jakubiak also takes advantage of Pat’s Bar and Grill for some storage, preparation of larger sides and ordering supplies in bulk. He also credited City Market in Hotchkiss for bread and discounted turkeys and then there’s Zack’s BBQ where holiday Christmas meats are smoked.

Every year the holiday community dinners rely on both big and small donations from larger businesses to one time donations.

“Last year I was amazed because I got money in the mail just from people,” said Jakubiak, noting that some of the funds came from as far as Arizona.

Speaking of last year, a few things had to change due to the pandemic. Jakubiak said it was a very difficult time.

“Last year was the first year that we did ‘take-out’ only,” said Jakubiak, “So, they came in the front door, got their food and went out the side door. Everybody had to have a mask or I won’t let them in and I had the face shields and the masks.”

“COVID hurt badly in the respect that I only had five volunteers for 150 dinners. I even had to recruit from people waiting in line, it was horrible. I even had a few say that they weren’t coming back,” Jakubiak continued.

Despite the bump in the road, the mood at last year’s dinner was one of gratitude.

“People were happy that we had it going. I came close to closing it down but so many people depend on it and we’ve had it going for a number of years,” Jakubiak said.

This year the North Fork Community Dinners will offer guests their choice of a ‘sit-down’ or ‘take out’ option. This year’s sit down option will require more volunteers to help set up and take down tables in the dining hall.

“We’ll have a drink table, a dessert table, the whole works,” he said. “So, we’ll definitely need a lot more volunteers this year.”

Jakubiak is anticipating that most folks will want to take advantage of the ‘sit down’ option this holiday season.

“They like the comradery and they’ll stay for an hour and talk to their friends. I am anticipating that it’s going to be really good. I don’t think we’ll have any more than normal, we’ll still have a lot of take outs,” he said.

After last year’s experience, Jakubiak said he won’t be requiring folks to wear masks although masks and face shields will be available.

“I am not going to have any restrictions,” he said, “People are going to be eating for one thing so, what’s the point of being in-line having their mask on and then going and sitting down with your neighbors and taking your mask off?”

For folks who aren’t comfortable with not having special precautions, Jakubiak pointed out that there will be a ‘take-out’ option provided.

Every year the dinners draw in folks from the North Fork valley and beyond. In recent years there has been an influx of hungry holiday eaters from Cedaredge and Delta areas.

“It’s getting around that the food’s good,” said Jakubiak with a hardy laugh. “You can get as much as you want. I don’t limit people on the sides. We dish out the turkey, mashed potatoes, the hot stuff.”

Monetary donations can be made at the time of the dinner but are not required for the meal. Volunteers are asked to show up early to help with set-up.

“I do ask people to drop off salads and desserts prior to the meal or they can drop the day before at the town hall and place them in the refrigerator,” Jakubiak said.

If all goes well, Jakubiak expects to serve around 150 traditional Thanksgiving dinners on Nov. 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or until the food runs out. As always the meal will be served at the Hotchkiss Senior Center. The Christmas dinner featuring turkey and smoked ham will be served on Dec. 25.

Lisa Young is a staff writer for the Delta County Independent.

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