Johnson County Community College President Joseph Sopcich
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?: I start the day by running the Sprint Thanksgiving 5K. I’ve been doing it for years and it preempts any eventual guilt, which I may encounter due to serious overeating. Later, we get together with my parents and other close relatives to eat and drink. This year, our children are coming home from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Chicago to celebrate. I am blessed with a wonderful extended family as well. We’ve all celebrated every baptism, birthday, first communion, confirmation, holiday, and wedding together for my entire life.
What is your favorite thing to eat from the Thanksgiving table?: Homemade mashed potatoes with dressing — a special family recipe — excessively slathered with a thick, rich homemade gravy. Turkey is fine, but it is just an accessory.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition in your family?: My favorite memories go back to spending this day with my grandparents. Everyone being together was always the best. With age, we developed a tradition of drinking a shot or two of slivovica to kick off the afternoon. You’d have to be Croatian to understand that tradition.
Kansas City (Mo.) City Council, First District Councilwoman Heather Hall
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?: Being thankful with my family. We celebrate with both my husband’s family and my family, and our children don’t know the difference. We all celebrate together.
What is your favorite thing to eat from the Thanksgiving table?: I like the whole cranberry sauce on top of my turkey. I actually make it from scratch. I put the whole cranberries in the pot with sugar and water and a whole bunch of orange zest. My father makes the turkey on the grill, just puts it on an old fashioned Weber grill in the morning. It’s amazing.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition in your family?: One thing we’ve done in recent years is make little emergency kits. We all bring items — granola bars, water, hats, toothbrushes, a little money — and, after dinner, we sort the items on the pool table and put them into zip-lock bags to have in our cars. If we see someone on the street or homeless, when we’re driving around, we give it to them. It’s a new tradition.
The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah Senior Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?: Every year, we go to Boston to be with my wife’s family. It is a five day family-fun-food fest. Each year, we do a 5K run, work on a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, go to a movie that all 20 of us want to see — it’s a challenge — and, of course, cook and eat a lot.
What is your favorite thing to eat from the Thanksgiving table?: I’m a traditionalist: Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition in your family?: Before we eat, we go around and express that for which we are individually grateful. As our children have grown, this moment has become especially memorable and important to us.
William Jewell College President Dr. Elizabeth MacLeod Walls
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?: We celebrate Thanksgiving with family — as many family members as we can. The meal tends to be the main event, but chatting in the kitchen as it is being prepared is one of my favorite experiences during the calendar year. I also especially enjoy watching my boys and husband toss around the football in our front yard.
What is your favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving?: My mother makes the most delicious apple pie on the planet, and it is the centerpiece of most of our Thanksgiving meals.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition in your family?: Our tradition is to go around the table and say out loud what we are thankful for. It is a powerful moment and a reminder of our blessings as well as the deep love that we share as a family.
Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?: It’s about family and friends. My wife cooks a big turkey dinner. We also invite all of the patrol officers over, if they are working in the district, to come by and have Thanksgiving dinner with us.
What is your favorite thing to eat from the Thanksgiving table?: I would have to say the turkey. She cooks it. I carve it. She does it for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition in your family?: My wife gets up super early in the morning and, when I wake up, the smell is the first thing that hits you. You know it’s Thanksgiving as soon as you wake up. We have this huge dinner and then after we eat, people come in and out all day.
Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?: We are going to my brother’s home in Overland Park. Most of the family will be there. Our family has grown so much, it’s really sweet of him to keep having all of us. If we’re all there, it’s about 54 people.
What is your favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving?: I love the dressing. I have turkey at different times throughout the year, but I don’t often get Thanksgiving dressing. My mother makes it. I can’t tell you exactly what she does, but she stuffs the bird with the dressing, and that’s probably what makes it so good.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition in your family?: My husband and I always start with a church service in the morning then, as we sit around the table later in the day, we try to realize how fortunate we are and to give thanks. My husband and I always try to get out and take a walk as well, try to get outside. We are avid walkers on the trails. Being together with family is really the best. The entire family coming together without the stress of all the gift-buying that December brings. It seems like it’s such a peaceful time of year.
Compiled by Karen Ridder, Special to The Star