Charleston, WV

Kanawha Valley communities set to mark Thanksgiving with eccentricity, tradition

Michael Ramsburg
Volunteers prepare meals at the annual Frank Veltri Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Charleston in 2022.Photo byFrank Veltri Thanksgiving Dinner

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanksgiving is a holiday devoted to family, friends, food -- and, of course, giving thanks.

In the Kanawha Valley, Thanksgiving traditions extend even into local communities. Whether it's a 5K, an eccentric football game or a community-wide dinner, here are some Kanawha Valley Thanksgiving traditions for which to be thankful.

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Frank Veltri Thanksgiving Dinner
Volunteers prepare for the 2022 Frank Veltri Thanksgiving Dinner at St. George's Orthodox Church in Charleston.Photo byFrank Veltri Thanksgiving Dinner

This year marks the 57th Frank Veltri Thanksgiving Dinner, the annual community holiday feast held in Charleston. This event requires a brigade of volunteers who prepare and serve turkey, ham, sausage, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls, pies, green beans, cranberry sauce and more to anyone who shows up for dinner -- no questions asked.

"Our army of amazing volunteers are prepared to make this happen," organizers noted in a post on their Facebook page. "We may have larger numbers than in the past for the sit-down meal but we are currently working on the logistics right now to make sure that the needs are met."

Last year, volunteers delivered more than 1,000 meals to Kanawha Valley senior citizens, shut-ins and others in need of a warm meal, media reports noted. Hundreds more showed up at St. George Orthodox Church in downtown Charleston to enjoy a sit-down meal.

This year's dinner will again take place on Thanksgiving day at St. George Orthodox Church. Visitors may enter the building via the Court Street entrance. Eat-in meals will be available from 12:30-2 p.m. To-go orders will be available from 1-2 p.m. The dinner is free and anyone is welcome to attend.

Frank Veltri, for whom the dinner is named, was a well-known Charlestonian who died in 2001. He began organizing the free dinners in the 1960s. Upon his death, Veltri left an endowment fund with the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation to continue the dinner each year.

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Dunbar Commode Bowl
The River Rats take on the -Hillside Rams in the annual Commode Bowl on Thanksgiving day in Dunbar.Photo byDubar Commode Bowl

Many Americans enjoy watching football on Thanksgiving day, but citizens in Dunbar take the tradition to a whole new -- and somewhat more quirky -- level.

Since 1948, community members in the Kanawha Valley town have hosted their annual Commode Bowl competition. It begins with a parade at noon down Dunbar Avenue, the main thoroughfare through the municipality. Afterward, a game of tackle football is played at Dunbar Middle School. A donation of a nonperishable food item, later donated to local food banks, gets you entrance to the match.

Football teams are named after the community's geography, split by the local railway. The River Rats -- those who reside closest to the Kanawha River -- take on the Hillside Rams from the opposite side of the tracks. Winners receive the coveted plunger and awards with unique commode-themed superlatives like "Full of Crap" and the "Old Fart Award."

This year's Commode Bowl marks the community's 75th annual game. Joe Severino, a former Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter who now writes for RealWV, reports that this year's Commode Bowl will air at noon on FOX before the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers game on Thanksgiving Day.

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Drumstick Dash
The annual Drumstick Dash 5K walk and run takes place on Thanksgiving day morning at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston.Photo via Union Mission

Many communities around the U.S. hold holiday-themed races on Thanksgiving day. In the Kanawha Valley, Charleston hosts the Drumstick Dash.

The annual 5K is sponsored by a locally-franchised Chick-fil-A and serves as a fundraiser for the Union Mission. Participants may either run or walk in the event, which begins at 9 a.m. at Haddad Riverfront Park in downtown Charleston.

Online registration for this year's 5K has already closed, but event organizers said individuals may still sign up in person at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

Union Mission President and CEO Jason Quintrell told a local radio station that in past years, up to 1,500 people have participated in the race.

Do you know of any other Thanksgiving traditions in the Kanawha Valley we may have missed? Let us know in the comment section section below.

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