LANHAM, KS – The town sits in two states.
The story comes from the Kansas side.
About 20 people reside in Lanham – a tiny town along Nebraska’s Highway 112 and Kansas’ Highway 148. The town sits on either side of Stateline Road, which as you may have guessed, is also the state border.
On the south side of the road is St. John’s Lutheran Church. Thirty people make up its congregation.
“We have about 20 active members,” parish minister associate Jill Duis said. “There’s 35 on the (membership) rolls, but only about 20 active members.”
Since 1935, St. John’s has put on their annual Turkey Supper precisely one day and one week before the third Thursday of November.
“Rumor has it that the men started (the supper) originally,” Duis said. “As it is with all good things, the women made it better. The women took it over. According to my mother-in-law, it was a bizarre and bake sale all at the same time. The congregation was much larger back then.”
New this year was a silent auction. Several holiday-themed gift baskets were auctioned off. There was also a quilt auction on Wednesday.
“We’ve been doing that for as many years as I can remember,” Duis said. “We have two ladies in the congregation who hand sew the quilt. It’s machine-pieced, but they hand quilt it. It’s lovely.”
The meal consists of roasted turkey, gravy, fruit and sage dressing mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, vegetables, bread, and a variety of desserts.
The most sought after dessert is the cranberry salad, according to congregation president Pat Spencer.
“Our cranberries are our secret recipe,” Spencer said. “A lot of people come here for the cranberries. They love the cranberry salad.”
Spencer purchases 400 pounds of turkey meat and another 125 pounds of potatoes annually for the occasion. Most years, St. John’s serves 400 people in house, and then another 150 or so with takeout meals.
Preparations started on Monday evening, also known as “work night.” Volunteers peeled potatoes, and prepared the church hall for the dinner.
On Tuesday, “the women bake all day,” according to Duis. On Wednesday, volunteers start showing up as early as 8 a.m. to make final preparations.
It takes 25-30 sets of hands to make the dinner a successful one.
“We get some volunteers from family members that are no longer members here,” Reverend Donna Florio said. “Some from Hanover come up and help, too.”
Florio, who’ll be entering her seventh year at St. John’s in January, recognizes the significance that the annual Turkey Supper holds – not just for Lanham, but for its many surrounding communities.
“For this congregation, it is definitely a labor of love and a highlight,” Rev. Florio said, “because they just spend all year preparing for it. They’d be lost without it.”