For 34 years now, the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner has been an outstanding example of how the San Antonio community knows how to share with its less fortunate members. Upon walking through the doors of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on South Alamo Street, one is immediately impressed by the openness and the laid-back atmosphere. (See photo gallery below text.)
More than 25,000 meals are served over the course of the afternoon. A dinner of this size should be a chaotic exercise, but this is an extremely well-organized event. All anyone has to do is raise their hand and suddenly a meal, a drink, or a slice of pumpkin pie appears on the table. A small army of about 4,000 volunteers keeps everything flowing smoothly, from the production lines at the back of the hall preparing plates, to the folks who roam the aisles with multiple trays of Thanksgiving bounty.
In addition to all this fine food, entertainment runs throughout the afternoon. Since this is San Antonio, the music is predominantly Tejano Conjunto, and there are few who can resist the temptation to join the roundabout of cumbia dancers. For those who can’t participate, plenty of seating is provided around the dance floor to enjoy the antics of our local “Elvis” and members of our Armed Forces, for whom attending the dinner has become tradition. There’s even a TV lounge with football games playing behind the music stage.
No one can leave this event without being filled with a sense of good cheer – from the participants, to the police security folks and convention center employees. Smiles are abundant. If you’ve never been, take a little time out of your day next year to volunteer. You’ll be sure to find the true meaning of Thanksgiving.