On Thanksgiving, local residents can load up on turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and other holiday fixings — all without leaving their car.

The Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet is back again this year as a drive-through event. People can come to the county fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to pick up a Thanksgiving meal, assembled by an army of volunteers and brought car side. Deliveries will also be available for homebound residents.

This will be the third year for the drive-through experience. Organizers hope that even though they won’t be sitting down for a meal together, it still will provide a meal to those who need it.

“The original vision was to do this for people as a result of the flood, and it’s become such a communal event and morphed into a bigger thing,” said Richard Goss, chair of the Johnson County Banquets board.

The banquet was established in 2008, when church and civic leaders wanted to create a healing event to help the ailing community following that summer’s devastating floods. Local resident Pat Thacker intended to cook for people who lost their kitchens in the floods, and that idea grew to include about 600 meals that first year.

As the following years brought recession and economic strife, more and more people attended. In 2019, more than 1,200 people came to Scott Hall to eat, get a take-out meal or have a meal delivered.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to transition to a drive-through event in 2020 and 2021, as large gatherings were still unsafe. People were able to drive into the Johnson County fairgrounds, stop next to Scott Hall and be given the meals they needed before heading home.

With ongoing pandemic and threat of new variants, organizers decided to again make the event drive-through, Goss said.

“We’d like to return to a full-on sit-down meal, but we just weren’t comfortable with that,” he said. “We look forward to getting back to that someday.”

The format will be similar to last year, with drivers following a set route into and out of the fairgrounds to make the process as efficient as possible. People will enter from U.S. 31, drive up to Scott Hall and then exit out to drive west on Jefferson Street.

“It’s worked really well. We’ve been able to feed more people the last couple of years while doing it by drive-through,” Goss said. “And it’s a whole lot easier for us to feed more people.”

People are asked to request only one meal per person, and no more than five meals per car, Goss said.

Last year, about 1,400 people were served meals, with 1,500 served in 2020. Preparations are being made for 1,500 people to come this year, Goss said.

Still, people are encouraged to come to the fairgrounds earlier rather than later.

“It surprises me every year how many people come. They appreciate a chance to gather like this, and to continue that is important. It keeps getting bigger,” Goss said.


Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday

Where: Scott Hall at Johnson County fairgrounds

What: A full turkey dinner will be served free of charge for carry-out only. No reservations are required.

Donations: Can be made by cash or check sent to Johnson County Banquets Inc., P.O. Box 207, Franklin, IN 46131

Information: (317) 662-0199 or Facebook.com/JohnsonCoBanquets