MURPHYS -- On Christmas Day, Murphys Friends hosted a free Christmas dinner with all the fixings that served more than 800 people, most from Calaveras County.
This annual event has been going on for more than three decades and always includes a fabulously cooked turkey dinner, served with the help of dozens of cheerful volunteers.
More than 600 guests attended the event and more than 200 Calaveras residents received their free Christmas Day dinner in the comfort of their own homes, either by delivery or take-out. Those numbers stand out when you realize that this Gold Country town, on Highway 4 between Angels Camp and Arnold, has a population of 2,200.
A total of 65 turkeys were cooked in kitchens throughout the county, including the Murphys Hotel, Rodz Grill, the Calaveras Senior Center and the county jail.
In addition, food and beverage donations were provided by Big Trees Market, Angels Food Market, Ironstone Vineyards, Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital, Vallecito Conservation Camp, Murphys 4-H Club, Gold Country Coffee Roasting Co. and Calaveras Springs Water Co.
Even Santa Claus attended, passing out a donated gift to every child. Many of the gifts were provided by Murphys First Congregational Church. And the event would not have been possible without the donation of the Native Sons Hall in downtown Murphys by the Native Sons of the Golden West.
Like any community event, its success is determined by the people who generously volunteer their time and energy. County Supervisor Merita Callaway, one of the co-coordinators, says, "People come because they have a good time," adding that "the volunteers this year were outstanding."
"It's an honor to serve in this event," said Tim Folendorf of Angels Camp, the soft-spoken kitchen coordinator who has donated his culinary expertise for over 20 years. "Volunteers were already working in the kitchen carving turkeys when I arrived at 9 a.m."
Jay Grimstead of Murphys, also known as "the trumpet player," because he gets a big kick out of spontaneously starting one-man jazz concerts in parking lots throughout the area, has provided the event's entertainment for 11 years. "I love people and I do it for the joy of it," he explained.
Volunteering at the coffee station and helping the table hosts was the Pierce family from Murphys. Marvin, GiGi and their daughter Taylor are continuing a Pierce family tradition that began with Marvin's mom and dad. GiGi says, "The people are so happy and thankful." Taylor, a sophomore at Bret Harte High School, has been accompanying musician Grimstead with sign language since she was in the third grade.
Among those attending were Trisha Docekal of Valley Springs and her sons, Brian and Sean. Just days before Christmas, Trisha suggested to her 11-year-old son Brian that he ask Santa for a headlamp he could use on Boy Scout trips. She also suggested to 9-year-old son Sean to ask Santa for a football that he could enjoy with his brother and his friends. When they opened the presents they received from Santa at the event, Brian's eyes lit up when he saw an adjustable headlamp, and believe it or not, Sean was delighted to find a beautiful leather football.
Rodger Cripe of Forest Meadows, who has been working alongside Folendorf in the kitchen for 15 years, summed it up best: "It's a wonderful event, the price is right, everyone is welcome, and it goes off (almost) without a hitch."
Boyd, a substitute teacher, lives in Arnold. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.