Too much of a good thing?

 No one's going hungry here on Thanksgiving Day.  No less than five public feasts are being planned for Thursday's holiday in and around the towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. 

Rough calculations, gathered from those groups offering free turkey dinners, indicate that more meals are being planned than there are people living in this storm-wracked area.  Indeed, there is enough food being prepared to feed the populations of Bay St. Louis and Waveland even before Hurricane Katrina forced people to flee.

Too much of a good thing?  Hardly.  Even in these desperate times the community has risen to the occasion: organizers of the Bay St. Louis feast say the entire county has been invited to come share the bounty.

The biggest feast will be the community dinner being planned by Bay St. Louis. There preparations are already under way to feed some 7,500 people, according to Brad Whitley who is overseeing the effort.  Whitley, who runs his own catering business back in Moreno Valley, Calif., and looks like he'd be just as much at home playing lineman in the NFL as wearing a chef's hat, said he plans on deep frying 120 turkeys today.  "We'll have our own pyrotechnics show on top of everything else," he says jokingly. 

Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley, Calif., is partnering with Rotary International and WLOX-TV out of Knoxville, Tenn., to put on the dinner.  Members of other Calvary Chapels have been in Bay St. Louis serving free meals at "Camp Calvary" since shortly after the hurricane hit. 

"We were planning on trying to do something in our little camp," said Whitley, who is affectionately known as "Bubba,"; however, "the Lord had more people in mind to feed," he said.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre brought the partnership together and asked Calvary Chapel if it would spearhead the effort.  "It's a little bigger scale than what we're used to," Whitley said.  At the height of their service here, Camp Calvary was serving 6,000 meals a day, he said. "So we've kind of learned the process."


Calvary Chapel volunteers Justin Baughman and Nick Lazzareschi balance a tall load of hinged-lid styrofoam food trays while preparing for Thursday's banquet at the Depot. (John Brecher /

Donations for the feast have come in from all over, including from members of the community that have come by, offering up turkeys, hams, and other food.  "They're telling us they are thankful we've been here and they want to give back," Whitley said. 

The Bay St. Louis dinner kicks off at 11 a.m and "has no ending time," Whitley said.  "We'll go until everyone has more than they need to eat.

The other major feast being planned is down the road in Waveland at the New Waveland Cafe.  The meals served there are cafe's swan song; the group intends to dismantle the instant community that has grown up around the cafe on Saturday. 

Here, too, the people of Waveland have come together to give back to those who have, in every sense, been their lifeline, dispensing food, clothing, groceries, and essentials that are the warp and woof of life, down to bottles of shampoo and stuffed animals for the kids.

The New Waveland Cafe plans to serve a traditional Thanksgiving feast (if your definition of traditional includes a tent-city in the middle of a decimated shopping center) to some 2,000 people, right down to the 193 homemade pies that have been shipped in from Wisconsin. 

And while the New Waveland Cafe crew will be busy as early as 5:30 a.m. starting the cooking duties, the bulk of their turkeys are being prepared by the citizens of Waveland themselves.

"People have come by offering to cook a turkey and bring it back for us to use here," said Arjay Sutton, one of those on the cooking crew.  "We'll have about 50 turkeys being home-cooked and brought in to us," he said. 

Asked about what happens to the traditional leftovers, Sutton laughed, noting that the cafe still has a couple more days it'll be serving food.  "Besides, we'll have a lot more help with leftovers here than you'd have at home."

Clovis Siemon, one of the initial members that set up the cafe nearly three months ago, said he'll miss being with his family this Thanksgiving.  "But I'm also looking forward to spending Thanksgiving Day with my new family here."