Manitoba communities working to keep fall supper tradition alive during the COVID-19 pandemic

By | September 1, 2020

WINNIPEG — A crisp autumn wind is starting to blow in Manitoba, meaning the annual tradition of fall suppers will soon take place, but this year, they look a lot different. 

A fall supper is often a necessity for small-town community centres and other small organizations, but the pandemic is forcing them to rethink the tradition.

Zhoda Community Hall, a small-town community centre, has been running a fall supper for 15 years.

With COVID-19 still prevalent in Manitoba, the tradition was almost cut short.

“We thought, how can we get people the dinner they rant and rave about all year without getting them close together,” said Konrad Narth, a board member at Zhoda Community Hall.

The usually buffet-style dinner will now be for pickup only.

“You are going to come up pay for your meal and take a prepackaged meal,” said Narth. “There’s going to be a lot of people who enjoy getting out, even just for a drive to our fall supper.”

For $15, those that make the trip out to Zhoda, Man. will get a plate of perogies, cabbage rolls, chicken, meatballs, corn, and ice cream.

According to Narth, the funds from the dinner play a vital role in keeping the hall open.

“Normally, the fall supper is one of the main fundraisers for the Zhoda Community Hall,” he said.

“Like many other small-town community halls, they aren’t jam-packed with rentals, so in order to keep the facility upkeep and running, people in the community need to host events like this.”

The October 4 dinner will only be missing one aspect; the gathering of the community.

“People would come to fall supper to catch up with people they don’t see all the time and now they won’t have that,” said Narth. “Just to do our part, we will be discouraging that.”

CAN’T STOP KILLARNEY 

Like Zhoda, back in July, Killarney United Church thought it was going to have to cancel its fall supper that’s been running for almost two decades.

“We were thinking about cancelling earlier on, and then we got smart and thought how we can do this,” said Merle Campbell, a co-organizer of the supper.

This year, the supper of turkey, dressing, potatoes, turnips, coleslaw, a dinner roll, and dessert will be for takeout only.

“We are taking pre-orders by October 1 and varying our times for pickup every 15 minutes,” said Campbell.

The actual pickup date for the dinners, capped at 100 servings, is October 11.

Along with the cooks in the kitchen and three vegetable cookers in a separate trailer, the church is employing six additional people to pack and prepare the food for pickup.

At $15 a plate, the funds from cooking the home-style meal are very important to the church.

“Well, it’s a very good fundraiser,” noted Campbell, who said the money goes towards keeping the church running.

UKRAINIAN MUSEUM SUPPER

COVID-19 has put a damper on the Ukrainian Museum and Village out in the RM of Stuartburn.

The museum couldn’t hold any of its regular outdoor festivals, concerts, or tours this summer.

Kelvin Chubaty, president of the Ukrainian Museum and Village Society, said the annual fall supper is even more critical this year.

“We are hoping to make some of the money back this way,” said Chubaty.

Chubaty said the museum only decided to host a takeout version of its fall supper last month.

“Usually, we have a buffet-style table where everyone comes with a plate and they eat in the hall.”

On September 6, the museum will be giving plates of fried chicken, perogies, cabbage rolls, carrots, and dessert out a takeout window.

The $15 charge will go towards keeping the Ukrainian Museum and Village running.

A CANCELLED DINNER

While some fall suppers are going ahead this year, not everyone can make it pandemic friendly.

Lisa Johnston, the head organizer for the La Salle Community Centre fall supper, said the community decided to cancel the supper this year.

“A lot of the food is prepared outside the community centre, so it just seems to not be a smart move to try and have it this year,” she said.

Without the funds from the dinner, the community centre will feel the pinch.

 “There will obviously be a financial impact for sure,” said Johnston. “In that sense, it’s definitely a disappointment.”

Although sad, Johnston said cancelling is the right thing to do.

“It’s been a long-standing tradition here in La Salle, so it’s really disappointing when something like this can’t go on,” she said.

“The decision was made just to keep everyone safe. I just felt it was necessary because of the pandemic.”

Johnston said she now worries people will forget about the supper, and they will lose volunteers when fall rolls around next year.

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