Lopez arranges first-ever turkey feast for NU

Janette Neuwahl

Associated Student Government President Rachel Lopez spent Thanksgiving dinner two years ago at the tiny Jalapeno Cafe on Clark Street, which she remembers as “very, very lonely” and hardly traditional. Last year she had a makeshift chicken dinner at a restaurant while studying abroad in France.

This year, Lopez is spending her Thanksgiving with the Northwestern community in the “traditional” sense at ASG’s first annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which will be in Parkes Hall this Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

For those students unable to go home, Lopez said she wanted to provide an alternative for them to celebrate the holiday. Since NU’s dining halls are closed for dinner and the options in Evanston are meager, Lopez thought an on-campus meal would be a nice event for ASG to host.

“You don’t see many events for the community to come together just to be together,” said Lopez, a Weinberg senior.

For $2, students can get a dinner of smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn on the cob, greens, baked beans and corn bread, all catered by Hecky’s Barbecue. Tickets are on sale at the Norris University Center box office and are $3 for faculty and staff. ASG is subsidizing the dinner since the actual cost is $10 per person, Lopez said.

“This is an opportunity to provide a service for the students,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to pay an exorbitant amount of money if they want to stay on campus.”

Lopez has been working with International Studies Residential College Sen. Noora Lori to plan the event. Lopez said they have not been able to publicize the dinner much because the original caterer canceled.

In the past few weeks, Lopez has mentioned the event at meetings with Panhellenic Association, the Interfraternity Council, the Residential College Board and the Residence Hall Association. Lopez said she also inquired about sending a listserv e-mail to all international students to make sure they knew about the dinner.

“This is not really something that’s going to appeal to the whole campus so we have to find some way to reach the people who are going to stay so they can get tickets,” said Lori, a Weinberg freshman and international student from Bahrain. Lori said she jumped at the chance to help organize the event and learn about the American tradition of Thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, many students are unaware of the event. Weinberg senior Harini Kumar said she had heard nothing about the ASG dinner, even though she plans to return home to Princeton, N.J.

Communication senior Katie Reibert, who is a residence hall coordinator for the South Campus small houses, also had not heard about the dinner by Monday afternoon, when only one ticket was sold from the Norris Box Office.

Though Reibert did not know about the event, she said she would go to the dinner if she was staying at NU. Instead, Reibert is spending the holiday with family in the Evanston/Skokie area.

“A lot of people do stay here over the Thanksgiving break and it gives a chance for students to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal as opposed to going to the grocery store and picking up random food,” Reibert said.

By putting on the dinner, Lopez is fulfilling one of the personal initiatives put forth in her presidential platform last spring. But she is not the only one who would like to see ASG’s Thanksgiving dinner become a yearly event. Hecky Powell, owner and manager of Hecky’s Barbecue, said he hopes the event will lure students and planners to hold future Thanksgiving dinners.

“We’re going to make sure (our food) is the best they ever had,” said Powell, who has owned the restaurant for 20 years. “We want to make them feel like they’re right at home, and then maybe we’ll get more kids to stay here next year.”