For the first 90 minutes Saturday afternoon, the Masons were worried only a few people were taking up their invitation for a free Christmas dinner.
Then about 5 p.m. people started to pour into the Fort Macleod and District Community Hall and for the next 90 minutes the Masons and their helpers were run off their feet.
“It was overwhelming,” Mason Brian Reach said of the Community Christmas Dinner. “We were worried at first. We thought nobody was going to come.”
They needn’t have been concerned.
Four hundred and 25 people were served a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and cranberries, with ice cream and strawberries for dessert.
Fortunately for the Masons, who took over organizing the event this year from Synergy Land Services, they had plenty of help.
“It was a real community event,” Reach said. “People from every walk of life helped out.”
The volunteers included members of the Fort Macleod RCMP detachment and Ranchland Victim Services.
Kids First Family Centre and Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services also provided volunteers.
“Our group isn’t that big,” Reach said of the Masons. “So to have all the people who came out to help was fantastic.”
Included in the volunteers were Bev and Henry Hagan, who brought years of experience in running a free Christmas dinner from their years as owners of the Westerner Restaurant in Fort Macleod.
“The Hagans, if it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened,” Reach said.
Monty Orr of Windy Rafters Barn Dance arranged for entertainment during the dinner.
Volunteers manned craft tables where children could colour and do crafts, including an edible Grinch pop made of grapes, strawberries and marshmallows.
Santa Claus made a couple of appearances on Saturday afternoon, and 89 children eagerly climbed aboard his lap to share their wish lists and have their photos taken.
A few adults also spent a few moments with Saint Nick.
There was no charge for dinner, but the Masons did accept donations of cash, non-perishable food items and toys for the food bank and Christmas hampers run by the Salvation Army in Fort Macleod.
At the heart of the event, though, was the chance for Fort Macleod residents from all corners of the community to come together for a meal at a special time of year.
“There was a real cross-section of people,” Reach said. “Lots of people who needed a meal came, and lots of people who just wanted to make a donation.”