Story by Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter
Cold weather? Fear not! The Baylor community gathered on Wednesday for a night of Thanksgiving food and fall festivities in three campus dining halls — Penland, Memorial and East Village. The event typically occurs on Fountain Mall, but it switched locations to Baylor dining halls to accommodate for the cold weather.
This All-University Thanksgiving event serves as a popular campus tradition, allowing all students, staff, faculty and families to celebrate with free food and engage in conversation and fellowship.
Weatherford senior Emma Beaird is involved in planning the event as co-chair of Student Foundation’s campus and promotions committee. Beaird believed the last-minute change didn’t have a huge impact on the event.
“When the weather turned rainy and cold early this week, we had to make a tough call to move Thanksgiving Dinner indoors this year,” Beaird said. “Our main concern with moving it inside was to make sure that the event still had a fall atmosphere, and I think we definitely did everything we could to achieve that feeling. Our hope is that the sense of Baylor family was still felt by everyone who attended last night.”
Houston sophomore Vanessa Jessurun actually preferred the indoor location, believing it led to a more convenient setting and quicker food delivery.
“I think the event worked better in the dining halls this year since it allowed more people to come because of the convenient locations of dining halls,” Jessurun said. “The lines went faster since there were multiple lines and multiple halls. The food was also able to stay warm and we could hear the music and see the performers better. And of course, the cozy, warm atmosphere of the dining halls helped me enjoy the delicious dinner.”
McKinney freshman Reagan Yablon also appreciated the location switch, as it made the event easily accessible to freshman living in dorms and others present on campus.
“I probably wouldn’t have gone if it was outdoors,” Yablon said. “Since I live in Penland, the location made it very convenient and easy, so I’m glad they decided to change it.”
Kalamazoo, Mich., junior Ailina Plemmons still enjoys the fall atmosphere created by the event’s previous location on Fountain Mall, but thought the community’s enthusiasm for the event helped make it special regardless of the change.
“The event was a bit cramped, but the energy was high. The dining halls made it seem like any other regular night, but there was something special about the purpose of everyone’s attendance, being there to celebrate thankfulness and community,” Plemmons said. “It wasn’t the same fall atmosphere but was definitely better than freezing outside in the thirty-degree weather. I also got a hug from President Livingstone!”
This was Houston junior Karin Simpson’s first time attending All-University Thanksgiving, and she saw the event as one that unified the Baylor community.
“I heard that the event is normally outside, but I personally enjoyed it inside because I don’t know anything different,” Simpson said. “People were waiting a long time to get in there, and they were all excited and talking with each other. It’s great to see everyone join together to get ready for the holidays.”
As a senior, Beaird experienced her last All-University Thanksgiving as a Baylor student, and said the event caused her to reflect on other memories from university traditions.
“This is such a special tradition to the Baylor family and I wanted to soak it in as a senior,” Beaird said. “Even amidst the business of the event and working to coordinate all of the event volunteers, I knew it was important for me to take time to stop and enjoy the event myself. I was able to take a brief break from working to have dinner with one of my roommates, listen to the student performers in Penland and reflect on the past three Thanksgiving dinners we’ve been a part of. Nights like last night remind me of just how special Baylor is.”
Jessurun values the event as one that not only brings together Baylor students, but also faculty, staff and their families and members of the Waco community.
“Students within the Baylor community were able to grow friendships and relationships with faculty over a delicious free meal,” Jessurun said. “Both also had the opportunity to converse with Baylor and Waco families who came to the event. It’s a great way to unify the community and gave us all the perfect opportunity to rest from our busy lives and spend time with one another.”
All-University Thanksgiving was planned through a partnership of Student Foundation, Student Government and Chamber of Commerce and was made possible through Baylor Dining Services, who hosted the event.