Potluck Stops Traffic

by Becky St. Clair

Two blocks of 4th Street closed to traffic for the giant outdoor potluck.

Students and members ate and fellowshiped on either side of the center line.

COLLEGE PLACE, Wash., - “This is every college boy’s dream,” exclaimed Chad Angasan, senior theology major at Walla Walla University. He was speaking of The Longest Table, an event coordinated by the University Church on Saturday, October 2.

At 6 o’clock that morning, Fourth Street in College Place was just a street. A few cars were parked along the curb, squirrels scurried across the grass hunting for their winter store, and an early-morning walker led a dog down the sidewalk.

Then in came the troops.

A team of 18 people formed an assembly line down the street. The first crew followed a truck, unloading folding tables and setting them up. They were followed by additional small groups that covered the tables with plastic tablecloths, put numbers and eight place settings on each table and set up the chairs.

“The team blew my expectations in terms of setup time,” says University Church pastor Henning Guldhammer. “With all those willing hands, we got the entire thing set up in only two hours and twenty minutes.”

After the second service at the University Church, a flood of people exited the building and filled Fourth Street, friends calling out to friends as the aroma of good home-cooked food filled the air.

In total, there were 176 tables stretching the two blocks, seating 1,408 people. More than that ate, however; additional tables piled high with plates and baskets of forks were made available to those who came late and couldn’t find a chair. Some stood, some sat in the shade on the grass, and others dined on office steps.

“We wanted a big blowout event that would give the university students a chance to meet church members,” explains Guldhammer. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day; the weather was beautiful and we fed everyone.”

Food was provided by University Church members. Approximately 145 people and families signed up to sponsor a table; some covering one table, others two, and one family sponsored six tables.

The food was as varied as the attendees. One table enjoyed lasagna, salad, green beans, corn and apples. Another served vegetarian meatloaf, a potato dish and tomatoes with basil. Some tables served water, others punch, some sparkling cider and others juice. Desserts ranged from cookies to lemon cake to nectarine cobbler.

“I like to cook and I enjoy meeting new people so this event was right up my alley,” says Suzan Logan, a church member who sponsored a table with fellow member Gary Reiber. “I’d definitely do it again.”

Church members and university students weren’t the only ones who benefitted from this event, however. The soccer team from Trinity Lutheran College in Everett, Wash., scheduled to play the WWU Wolves that evening, came early to have lunch. Though they arrived after many tables had been cleared, team members were handed plates and forks and sent to the tables that still had food. They were not disappointed.

“The food was awesome,” said Aldin Tirak, a soccer team member from TLC. “I didn’t know what I wanted there was so much of it.”

Many expressed interest in doing The Longest Table again next year, making it even bigger.

“It’s a lot of fun, but we need more tables,” said freshman international communications major Kindra Moore with a laugh.

Guldhammer says it’s still undecided as to whether or not The Longest Table will happen in 2011, but he’s hopeful. “This is how we envisioned it,” he says. “What a beautiful way to start the school year.”