Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Although the holiday has not always been on the fourth Thursday in November, for almost 400 years, the holiday has been a celebration of reasons to give thanks in America regardless of the hardships faced.

The very first celebratory feast dates to November 1621 when Governor William Bradford, Mayflower voyager and one of the original pilgrims, organized the festival of celebration in light to of the pilgrims’ first harvest of corn being a success. Native American allies joined the pilgrims in this three-day festival, all in the spirit of gratefulness for the “plenty” that had been bestowed to them.

As the years passed in America, the holiday continued to be a celebration of thanks and ironically in a time of great turmoil in America, Thanksgiving was proclaimed a holiday in the midst of the Civil War that had a country divided - yet still thankful, by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week to promote sales that would hopefully spur an increase in the economy during the Great Depression, but the change was met with opposition and in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt, with much chagrin, signed the bill that made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

Eighty years later in 2019, the Thanksgiving season is still alive and well in households across America including the small towns right here in Franklin County. Despite what hard times fall on the community members, the season is still rich with holiday traditions for many Franklin County families.

Local photographer and Franklin County resident since the age of 2, Sue Lohrey of Summey Photography, has been teary eyed the entire week as the day of thanks approaches. She recalled her “daddy’s” love of the holidays. Lohrey’s father, Howard, was the originator of Summey Photography, and Lohrey had the pleasure of working side by side with her dad until he passed away in April 2006. Lohrey recalled memories from Vevay fall festival craft show where her and her dad took photos. Every year Lohrey said clients would come to their session bearing handmade gifts to say thanks for the years of sweet memories captured by Summey Photography. That memory is just one of many Lohrey has of the special season.

“Being a daddy’s girl, it was important to me to make sure our family was together, sitting at the table, holding hands as we give thanks over our table full of food,” Lohrey said. “Even if the turkey caught the oven on fire and it was well done (it took Lohrey a few years to get the knack for roasting a turkey down). We have a tradition of going around the table giving one thing we are grateful for before we dig into all the delicious food.”

Lohrey’s favorite part is watching her family pass the food around and laugh and smile as they do. She also recalled how her dad brought along his“bluegrass buddy” year after year, and following dinner, they would sit in the living room and listen as the duo played music. Then, she reminisced how he would pack up a box of Thanksgiving goodies and head out to play music elsewhere with the “boys.” 

For Lohrey and her business, Christmas starts before Thanksgiving and even though she doesn’t see her family much during the month of November due to the long hours of taking photos and editing them, she still makes it out the Wednesday before, every year, to get all the groceries needed for the Lohrey family feast.

“One of the things I miss the most is calling my Aunt Berter and gobbling like a turkey, asking if she’s got hers in the oven,” Lohrey said. “It is great to reminisce, and I am so grateful for my family and where we are in our lives today; we are healthy, happy and together; we are blessed.”
This Thanksgiving will see the Lohrey family together once again to celebrate their family traditions as some of the old have passed away and new additions have come along.

More recent Franklin County resident, Karis Troyer and her family, said Thanksgivings hosted in Brookville are especially wonderful including the week before Thanksgiving when Brookville holds the annual November Noel.

“We have hosted family from as close as Indianapolis and as far away as Colorado (for Thanksgiving) and everyone always agrees that Brookville is a special kind of town,” said Troyer. “I love November Noel; the kids love seeing the so friendly Santa, there were fun crafts for them to do, and we won free movie tickets, which we used to go see Frozen.”

The Troyers also take advantage of other local businesses as a part of their traditions. They visit Whitetail Tree Farm and the famous reindeer while picking out their tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. And the night before Thanksgiving you can find the Troyers’ patriarch and matriarch at a local restaurant and bar, Third Place, listening to music and hanging with friends. And even though it may seem “cheesy” Troyer couldn’t help but talk about all she was thankful for in her small hometown.

“I’m thankful for how beautiful it is here: two rivers, a lake, the hills and hollers. All the wild space but joined with a downtown that’s adorable and easily walkable,” Troyer said. “I am thankful for how kind everyone I’ve met has been, especially to a pregnant mom of two boys when I first moved here, but also how involved so many of those same people are in making Brookville awesome.”

As Thanksgiving comes and goes this year, one thing seems certain, Franklin County residents will continue on with established traditions like the tree lighting in Metamora the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the new traditions that are welcomed, like the hanging of an ornament at the town park to kick off what some consider “the most wonderful time of the year.”