Preparation for the holiday season is in full-swing at the Hospitality House in Boone.

Beginning on Thanksgiving morning at 9 a.m., the Hospitality House hosts the annual Turkey Trot 5K on the Greenway Trail, but according to Todd Carter, director of development, preparation for the race begins at 5:30 a.m., well before the sun rises over the mountaintops.

This year, the Turkey Trot is expecting to see more than 1,000 participants from across the country. Learn more about one of the most popular Thanksgiving Day 5k events in the U.S., visit www.HCTurkeyTrot.org.

Following the Turkey Trot, the celebration continues at the Hospitality House, located at 338 Brook Hollow Road in Boone.

“I love coming back to the building after the Turkey Trot, and the place is humming with people — volunteers, residents, neighbors, community members — and filled with all the smells of Thanksgiving. It is a magical day here that day,” said Carter.

The Thanksgiving meal is free for anyone in the High Country who is looking for fellowship and a good meal.

“Think of the biggest family Thanksgiving dinner and that’s what (Thanksgiving at the Hospitality House) looks like. Our chef and food service coordinator Keith Nelsen will prepare 15-20 turkeys, 80 pounds of mashed potatoes, 60 pounds of sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, 24 dozen yeast rolls and enough gravy, cranberry sauce and iced tea for 200-plus people,” said Carter.

The dinner is a collective effort throughout the area of Two Rivers Community School, Kilwin’s, the Watauga County Farmers Market and the Boone Service League, and dinner will be served at two different times, in order to serve as many people as possible.

“We will do two seatings of 100 people,” said Carter, “and we’ll be doing it family-style with table service.”

The first dinner will be served at noon, the second round will begin at 1 p.m., and leftovers will be served to “anyone who walks through our doors” from 5:30-6:30 p.m., according to Carter.

“We don’t want anyone to go hungry, be alone or struggle to eat — especially on Thanksgiving,” Carter said.

Additionally, the Hospitality House is looking ahead to next month’s holiday celebrations and the hardships that this season often brings.

“As the holiday season continues, it can be difficult for many of our residents,” explained Carter. “Bad memories can be triggered, many have no family or are estranged so it can be tough, particularly around Christmas time. However, we do our best to make it as “homey” as possible.”

Throughout the next month, the Hospitality House will put up eight Christmas trees and a Hanukkah bush, decorate the house and prepare for Christmas morning when each man, woman and child will have a gift to open on Dec. 25, even if they just arrived on Christmas Eve, says Carter.

The Hospitality House’s Christmas party, “Deck the House,” will be on Dec. 12, and the community is welcome to swing by and help decorate trees, fellowship and spread Christmas cheer. A Facebook event for the Christmas party can be found at www.facebook.com/events/565729544163174/.

Year-round, including Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, the Hospitality House offers a food pantry that is open from 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. every day for anyone struggling with food insecurity in the High Country.

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