Out & About: Annual West Newbury Turkey Supper Celebrates 60th Year

  • Aroline Putnam, left, and Jan Cole make gravy for the annual West Newbury Turkey Supper. (Courtesy Catherine Kidder)

  • Volunteers peel squash for the annual West Newbury Turkey Supper. (Courtesy Catherine Kidder)

  • People gather outside West Newbury hall for the annual Turkey Supper.

Valley News Calendar Editor
Wednesday, October 03, 2018

West Newbury — It takes 540 pounds of turkey, 200 pounds of potatoes, 52 dozen homemade rolls, 96 homemade pies, 38 pounds of butter, 75 loaves of bread for stuffing and 27 ovens to cook the turkey to make the annual West Newbury Turkey Supper — happening Saturday — possible.

But that’s not even the most impressive part. That belongs to the longevity of the dinner at 60 continuous years — “never a break,” said Catherine Kidder, co-chairwoman of the supper.

“I don’t think it’s changed in a long, long time,” she said. In 1981, they switched from Kool-Aid to cider.

The meal includes roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, squash, coleslaw, cranberry sauce, rolls, cider, coffee or tea and pie.

The location has also always been West Newbury Hall at 219 Tyler Farm Road. Proceeds from the supper go toward the upkeep of the historic gathering spot where dances, concerts, breakfasts and receptions are regularly held.

“We’ve kept up with it over the years so the hall is in really great shape,” Kidder said. “The community is really invested in keeping the hall going.”

Seatings are held at 5, 6:15 and 7:15 p.m. Takeout is also available. It’s $13 for adults and takeout, and $6 for children 10 and under.

Reservations are recommended by calling 802-429-2876 or e-mailing westnewburyhall@gmail.com.

Most residents in West Newbury either attend the supper or are one of the more than 100 volunteers who help run it.

Lifelong resident Aroline Putnam has been part of every one of the 60 suppers — save for the three years she spent attending university in Scotland.

“I’ve had something to do with everyone of them,” she said. Her five children volunteered as servers. “Since then, one of my daughters-in-law has done things for it. And two of my grandchildren help at it too.”

This year, Putnam made rolls and helped chop cabbage.

“It’s a huge production,” she said.

They typically have 450 guests, with an additional 100 requesting takeout, Kidder said. Everyone who volunteers also gets a meal.

“All in all, we feed about 630 people,” she said.

And it’s not just West Newbury and Upper Valley residents who attend. Boston resident Lew Finfer and his wife, Judy Shea, have attended “a large majority of the last 25 years,” he said. “It’s something we look forward to every year.”

Every Columbus Day weekend they have a tradition of attending the turkey supper and Cedar Circle Farm’s Pumpkin Festival. The couple have a cottage on Lake Morey and have been visiting the area for decades.

“It just seems like quintessential New England,” Finfer said of the supper. “You’re meeting people you don’t know and talking to them and the dinner is amazing.”

What’s his favorite part?

“That might be hard, I might get in trouble,” Finfer said with a laugh. “The turkey, the gravy, the mashed potatoes, the squash, the choice of pies … I also have to admit … that I put a (piece) of turkey in my napkin to put in my pocket to give to my dog when I get home.”

Finfer works in the nonprofit field and knows what it takes to organize an event of this size.

“I also appreciate seeing something and knowing something behind it that makes it possible,” he said.

That level of community is what Kidder and Putnam both cited as their favorite parts of the supper.

“I think it’s eating with the staff after the dinner,” Kidder said. “The comraderies. The job is done. Everyone feels good. We’re hungry.”

Putnam loves, “the cooperation of the people in the community working together” to put the supper together, she said. “It’s a huge scale for this community.”

And it’s a spirit that’ll carry on for many years to come.

“If you consider yourself part of West Newbury you are,” said Kidder, adding that the community isn’t restricted by geographical boundaries. “It’s pretty special. There’s nobody who lives here who doesn’t love being here.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.