Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet back as drive-through

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and other fixings.

And on Nov. 23, local residents who want a meal can load up on their favorite holiday treats without leaving the comfort of their cars.

The Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet will once again be a drive-through event, offering a free meal to the public in what has become an annual tradition. 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.

This will be the fourth 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 want one.

“These meals are available to everybody; it’s not just a need-based meal,” said Tara Payne, vice-chair of the Johnson County Banquets board. “While we encourage anyone to come who needs a meal, it’s meant for everyone. We just want to serve the community.”

Deliveries will also be available for homebound residents.

“People who don’t have a car, are disabled, anything that keeps them from leaving their home, we want to deliver meals to them and their families,” Payne said.

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, where 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.

The model worked well, and has been continued in the past two years.

“We keep the line moving pretty well. There’s not a huge wait, and we get everyone their food,” Payne said.

Drivers will follow 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 either side of Scott Hall and then exit out to drive west on Jefferson Street.

Last year, about 1,300 people were served meals, with 1,400 served in 2021 and about 1,500 served in 2020. Preparations are being made for about 1,200 people to come this year.

While the past few years have been drive-through banquets only, organizers are planning on resuming in-person dining in 2024.

“It’s a place for people to break bread, get fellowship. We definitely want to get back to that,” Payne 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 for the drive-through are required. Deliveries will be made to homebound residents only, and can be arranged by calling 317-662-0199 or emailing [email protected].

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