Thanksgiving came early in Poolesville. Only, instead of dining on turkey, the hundreds who gathered in this Maryland town actually dined with a turkey.
His name is Perry.
The strutting turkey, who's something of a star at Poplar Animal Sanctuary, stared down the hungry crowd with nothing to worry about — because the big dinner in Poolesville was no ordinary Thanksgiving feast: The diners there were only interested in vegan fare. Every year, they gather to forego the traditional dinner of turkey or pork roast, and instead eat vegan or vegetarian dishes right alongside the chickens, pigs and sheep.
Terry Cummings and her husband, Dave, came up with the idea of this Thanksgiving shindig some 18 years ago with one goal in mind: to save farm animals from slaughter. And that idea, she says, has really caught on.
"More people are more aware of the issues now," she says. "They're more concerned about farm animals. They realize that there's a need to have sanctuaries like this one."
So, with help from charitable donations, Cummings works full-time to take care of roughly 200 animals. And she's got her favorites.
"Evie, the three-legged goat — she lost her leg because her owners did not take her to the vet when an emu stepped on her and she got a broken leg," Cummings says. "They were going to shoot her, and the veterinarians called us and asked us to take her — and we've had her ever since."
As a family, Cumming and several hundred of her friends from all over the region have pulled out all the stops to put on a Thanksgiving dinner where the animals eat before the humans. Chunks of watermelon, vegetables and worms are plucked and scattered across white serving panels on the grass.
Ricardo Travino drove 2 1/2 hours with his wife, Nicole, to get to the feast. And he certainly showed up in style — with a Butterball hat on his head that read "Tofurkey." (That's tofu instead of meat.) He stuffed his face with vegan treats.
"This is not your typical potluck. People really haul out everything they have to come up with great meals here," says Ruth Davis, who sat just a couple of tables down from Travino. She plucked a few desserts that she "wouldn't normally go for," she says — "but we're going to give it a shot."
Guess that's where the "luck" from potluck comes from. When you're dining with the animals, you never know what you're going to get.