A friendly feast on Fourth Street | PostIndependent.com

A friendly feast on Fourth Street

It must have been the biggest potluck Carbondale has ever seen.

Around 400 people showed up for the first annual One Town Our Table event on Fourth Street. The attendants ranged from eight months to 99 years old and hailed from all walks of life and every creed.

There were far too many to truly accommodate at the single table on aside for the purpose, or to create a traditional potluck dynamic. Instead, tables were arranged in a rectangle, with a few islands in the center. Each group of six or eight was assigned to arrange their own selection of food and bring seating, dishes and any decor they might desire.

The results were diverse but invariably festive.

Mary Matchael’s table dressed all in white, with white tablecloths and white flowers crowning an elegant array of food. It was, she explained, a nod of the hat to the “White Table Affair” event she first encountered in Massachusetts.

“We were so excited when we heard that Carbondale was going to do this,” she said.

Kathleen Wanatowicz described her spread as “a sophisticated Southern evening,” complete with candles, crystal, china and of course cornbread and chicken.

“This is a fantastic evening,” she said. “They should do it in every town.”

The prize for the best decor — fine chocolates and a spray of roses — went to Erin Rigney’s table, which she described as “Carbondale Eclectic.” Although the prayer flags may have been the flashiest element, the donkey centerpiece gave the table some ruder nicknames.

“Last night was the first I heard about decoration,” she said. “We just kind of went nuts.”

Competition is likely to be stiffer next year.

“We’re already thinking about what we can do to go over the top,” Diane Darrough said.

“We hope this is an annual event,” she added. “It’s very Carbondale.”

As the event drew to a close, each mini potluck began to blend with its neighbors as folks reached across the gaps between tables and switched seats, until the whole scene began to resemble the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

“It gives you the opportunity to get out and socialize with your neighbors,” observed Ryan Margo.

Clay Hawkins agreed.

“It’s as it should be,” Hawkins said. “There’s no agenda. It’s not for profit. It’s just a chance to be with each other.”

Linda Criswell gets credit for bringing the event to Carbondale, but she isn’t ready to claim the idea.

“People have been [having potlucks] for a long time, just not here,” Criswell said.

Credit for execution goes to Sondie Reiff, who put the whole event together with no budget and help from myriad local organizations.

“We’re really grateful to everyone who showed up,” Reiff said. “It really turned out to be a great event.”

Reiff also said that the event will be on Main Street next year to allow for a proper potluck on a single, long table.

“Everyone who came should bring three more people with them,” she added. “We want the whole town here.”

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