Claire Ledingham, left, hands a guest a meal at the Drive-Thru Fall Supper held at Heritage United Church in Regina on Saturday Oct. 3, 2020. The annual event, normally a large communal meal, was switched to a drive-thru format because of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

‘The thing you do around here:’ Prairie fall suppers adjust to COVID-19 reality

Vehicles lined up more than three kilometres along a rural Manitoba road on the last Sunday afternoon of September as their occupants waited to grab a traditional Ukrainian feast in a brown takeout bag.

The community hall in Pansy, about 90 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, ran out of fried chicken, perogies, cabbage rolls and other goodies at about 4:30 p.m.

“We probably turned around at least 100 vehicles,” said Leanne Germain, Pansy Hall’s president and one of the organizers of its famous annual fall supper. “That was the most painful part.”

Fall suppers are a long-running harvest-time tradition in the Prairies. But food served buffet-style and eaten shoulder-to-shoulder at long communal tables is a no-no in the time of COVID-19.

So community centres and churches have been adjusting by serving their grub drive-thru style.

It’s been a way to recoup some of the revenue the pandemic has sapped from weddings, banquets and meetings.

“We want to be present in our community. We don’t want to see our community halls closed. We love feeding people,” said Germain.

In all, Pansy Hall managed to serve more than 700 people at this year’s supper. Pre-pandemic that number would have been up to 1,500.

Some of this year’s attendees rolled up in motorhomes or off-road vehicles. Many brought lawn chairs and ate outside in nearby green space.

“If we had to do this again, we know now that we can prepare for 1,000 people or 1,200 people,” said Germain.

“We just didn’t know if people would come out and support, but they did. They were a force to be reckoned with.”

Irene Schmidtke was one of the people who left the Pansy supper empty-handed.

“I was standing in line waiting for them and then somebody trotted by us and said they sold out.”

Schmidtke is organizing a midday drive-thru dinner at the Friedensfeld Community Centre south of Steinbach on Oct. 25. She had been planning to serve 400, but witnessing first-hand Pansy’s popularity, she’s wondering whether to scale up.

“We don’t know,” she said. “It’s a gamble.”

Schmidtke said fall suppers are a big deal around where she lives, and people are often bused in from Winnipeg.

“They have your favourites and everybody goes to eat,” she said. “It’s just the thing you do around here. You wait for them.”

Heritage United Church in Regina has held fall suppers for three decades, and the pandemic is not getting in the way of it continuing the tradition this year.

‘It’s really a favourite activity. It’s a time when families all come together and eat and it’s quite a huge production,” said Rev. Joy Cowan.

Volunteers delivered pre-ordered packages of turkey and all the fixings to cars in the church’s parking lot this weekend.

The 250 meals it set aside for Saturday sold out, so the church decided to expand into Sunday.

“It’s amazing to see all the ways that churches are innovating. The pandemic is inviting us to try new things,” said Cowan.

“It’s fun to be able to try something out of the box and also to serve our community.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats turn minority into majority in British Columbia election

The New Democrats won a majority government in the British Columbia election… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Most Read