Pauline Johnson started the dinner 41 years ago to bring people together on this holiday and offer an opportunity for fellowship among Topekans.
Now it's grown into a meal where thousands find themselves a seat at the table next to their community neighbors. President of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner Foundation, Myron Johnson, estimated about 2,800 people would visit the Expocentre to eat. Another 1,300 carry-out meals were delivered between 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Thanksgiving.
Sarah Kolbek brought her family to the dinner because she said they needed a good place to go and a good place to eat. "It's very important to be with people that are in the same situation. Or family that can all get together and just have a happy Thanksgiving."
Myron Johnson agreed that his mother, Pauline, never intended for the dinner to be solely for people that were in need, but just as a fellowship for the community. "For people to come down and have somebody to sit with and visit with and get one of the better meals you'll find in Topeka."
The meal takes a lot of work to put together and a lot of donations to make it possible.
Johnson said it takes 800 pounds of potatoes, 1100 pounds of stuffing, 2000 pounds of turkey, unmentionable gallons of green beans, 435 pies, five pallets of soda, and a whole bunch of people.
Mayor Bill Bunten also attends the annual dinner. "It's a real good indication of what this city is really like," he said. "All across the city... people - on a daily basis - do things that help their neighbors. This is one when we all come together Thanksgiving day."