Come one, come all. That’s the message from El Sombrero Restaurant.
For the 13th year in a row, the restaurant is holding its annual free Thanksgiving dinner. And the entire community is welcome.
Helen Rivera, the restaurant’s owner, started the tradition in 1996.
“I always wanted to do something like this, but I didn’t have a place to do it,” said Rivera, who opened the restaurant more than two decades ago. “We decided to do this for everybody.”
In recent years, the restaurant has made 300 to 500 meals on Thanksgiving — about half of which are to-go. Dinners are served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but Rivera said El Sombrero is willing to keep serving if people are still around.
The restaurant offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal — ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, cranberries. For dessert, El Sombrero serves its trademark natillas.
In recent years, diners have enjoyed musical entertainment. This year, two bands are planning to perform.
Rivera said volunteers are a big help during the dinner, serving meals, filling drinks and cleaning up.
“We get a lot of volunteers to help. They give up their Thanksgiving day to help,” she said.
Her family — husband Frank Gonzales and children, Sara Garcia, Victor Ramirez and Torrey Ramirez — will help with the cooking.
She said people have offered monetary donations to help with the dinner, but she has refused them.
“I tell them to give the money to the soup kitchen, which has free meals twice a week. I only do this once a year; they do it all the time,” Rivera said. “We look forward to this. We start planning in October.”
“I would very much like everyone to come. The more here, the better we feel. We treat everyone like they are at home,” Rivera said.