Weaverville – In a holiday season defined by the gathering of family and friends, Weaverville’s Blue Mountain Pizza and Brew Pub once again found a way, even in this socially distanced year, to serve its complimentary Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of guests.
In masks and a holiday spirit on the restaurant’s porch, staff greeted guests with “Welcome!” and “Happy Thanksgiving!” as people, six-feet-apart and masked, filed up the sunny Main Street sidewalk to receive a pre-ordered, carry-out Thanksgiving dinner.
“When I grew up, I was taught that when you have a business, you take care of the community that takes care of you,” said Matt Danford, owner of the popular pizza restaurant. “It’s always been our feeling at Blue Mountain that we give back to the community.”
Blue Mountain began hosting the complimentary turkey dinners sixteen years ago, says Danford, serving about a hundred people the first year, and 350–500 people every year since.
This year, rather than a buffet-style dinner, it’s take out.
Everyone gets the same thing, said Danford: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans, and a dinner roll. Then, everyone can choose pumpkin pie or apple pie.
In addition to eighteen turkeys and nine hams—“We’ll go through about forty-eight pies, half pumpkin, half apple,” he said. “I think it will make a nice dinner.”
Many of those standing in line on that sunny Thanksgiving morning agree.
In a bright red Knicks sweatshirt, Neil Palermo of Alexander, spoke with gusto about Blue Mountain Pizza before the pandemic.
“It’s my favorite place! Five years ago, when I came here from New York, I found this place, ordered a pizza, sat at the bar, and ate the whole thing. It’s easy when it’s good,” he said. Asked which pie he’d choose, Palermo said, “Gotta do pumpkin!”
Friends Kathleen Forrest and Sandi Bourget, in a pretty yellow botanical-print mask, said,
“It’s a great idea. Blue Mountain Pizza is the best. And I get a chance to spend time with my friends,” said Sandi.
When asked which pie she’d choose Kathleen laughed. “Oh. Either. There is no bad pie.”
This year, the restaurant announced the new dinner through churches, newspapers, and radio.
Four hundred people were expected, some from as far as Hendersonville and Black Mountain.
“There’s such a need this year,” Danford said.
Turkey, ham, and a choice of pie—and clearly, the dinner is nourishment for both body and soul.
“We have people, every year,” he said, “people in their 20s who are working poor up to 80-year-olds who would be alone on the holiday if they didn’t have somewhere to go. Not only is this a good dinner, but it’s a social thing also, an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends.”
And because some people are unable to physically get to the restaurant, the Weaverville Police and Fire departments helped deliver meals.
As important as it is, this dinner is only one ingredient in Blue Mountain Pizza’s community involvement. Throughout the year, the restaurant contributes to the congregate meal program at the neighboring Baptist church and holds a monthly fundraiser for local organizations.
“We’ve raised $240,000 that we’ve donated back to the community,” he said.
Like all good hosts, Blue Mountain would never want to turn anyone away empty-handed, so the staff prepare plenty, then donate the extra meals in the afternoon. This year, though, many charities have cancelled dinners because of the virus. So the restaurant is providing dinners to the Vanderbilt Apartments, a senior residence in downtown Asheville.
“If we can possibly do it, we’re more than happy to help,” Danford said.