The Story of St. John’s Thankspigging

Coral Bay

The annual Thankspigging pot luck dinner is returning to Coral Bay this year, and as always, it’s expected to be a great event. Thankspigging will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday. It’s happening over at Skinny’s and all are welcomed. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share – an entree, side, dessert, etc.

Each Thankspigging event has a theme. This year’s theme is “Empty Spit Feed.”

So how exactly did Thankspigging begin? Here’s the story straight from Ken Yolman, the man behind the event:

In the Beginning…….. THANKSGIVING
My first island Thanksgiving was spent on Tortola in 1996. I had moved to Jost Van Dyke in the middle of October not knowing any one. I rented a house at Tula’s Campground in Little Harbor. The campground had been blown away during Bertha but the owner Lorna had a weekend shackteau still standing. Her girlfriend Dealia invited me to spend Thanksgiving day with her, family and friends, which I eagerly accepted. This was the first time I realized how lonely it could be at Thanksgiving with no family or friends to share a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Arthur’s ferry “When” was not running but I was able to hitch a ride on “Lady Diane”, a barge along with four dump trucks to Tortola. Taxi from Soper’s Hole to Dealia’s house on Apple Bay. Met new friends, had excellent food and was introduced to Guava Berry Wine.

Dealia’s family had a large glass cask filled with various berries and sugar cane rum. It ferments over the years as they add to it with more berries and rum each yearafter the hilidays. This one was six years old and they have had them up to 15 years. Needless to say I liked it so much I fell out early.

The next morning I got the 25 cent tour of Tortola and caught the “When” back to Little Harbor.

Coral Bay was my next Thanksgiving. I started the day with breakfast at the old Sea Breeze. While eating a bagel and cream cheese, I was invited to a local’s pot luck gathering at Lameshur Bay later in the day. Walked over to Skinnys. Skinny’s first female cook, Melisa had won a turkey in Skinny’s Turkey Shoot. Being a vegetarian she had never cooked a turkey and with Moe’s permission she was cooking the bird in Skinny’s old oven. About an hour into the cooking, Moe arrived. “Did you take everything out?” “Take what out?” “The neck, giblets you know, the stuff they put down its neck?” Melissa’s face turned red. Seizing the moment, Moe burst into action. Dressed with an apron, paper hat and a surgical mask he open the oven door and dove in like a seasoned gynecologist. Wielding his long tongs into the big bird and coming out with the neck, exclaiming, “Look its a boy”.

I hitch hiked out to Lameshur for the local’s feast.

It was embarrassing not being financial well enough to bring something to share. They all insisted to help yourself and don’t worry about it. About 30-40 people had brought turkeys to reefer brownies and everything in between. Pirate Bill had his volleyball net in place, half in the water and half out. Tried not to make a pig of myself and limit the beers. Met a lot of locals and ate a lot of excellent food.

Hitched back to Sputnicks. I had met Evonne during the year and she had invited me to come and eat with her and family. Evonne and her twin sister, who did not look anything like her, had been cooking for 3 days. She had duck, lamb, ham, turkey and an open bar. More excellent food and live music. Evonne sang the blues while Chris, Greg and Cliff backed her. Whistler Doug and Ron on his harp joined later. I started realizing that here in Coral Bay it was an extended family Thanksgiving tradition. I also learned Evonne use to work at Sputnicks from the day it opened and waited tables on roller skates.

By Thanksgiving 1998, I had progressed from hitchhiking to a red Cherokee. And I was able to bring a six pack of Bud to share. Not much yet but it was a small offering to start. About 40-50 locals with once again excellent food from the 5 turkeys to the 3 pans of my favorite brownies. Didn’t stay long then drove to Maho Campground. Pants Man Dan was cooking their Thanksgiving Dinner and had invited me. I sat alone at a table and had my first traditional and complete Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving 1999 found the Lameshur matriarchs, especially English Steve’s Laurie refusing to cook any more. “We’re tired of cooking for all you mooches who don’t bring anything.” This year I was on my own. Having a little more in my pocket this year I drove to town only to find not one restaurant opened. Luckily the old Marina Market was opened. I grabbed a steak and went home alone to have steak and garlic mashed potatoes. I think it was then I started thinking that once I could afford it I’d have my own feast where everyone was welcomed. It would not matter if you brought anything or not. Then there would always be a place to eat a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner and not be alone.

The Millennium Thanksgiving found me home alone once again. I made the traditional garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and a 7lb lobster. I vowed to never eat alone on Thanksgiving again. I think that’s when I first thought of “Thankspigging.” I’d provide a big cheap pig, garlic mashed potatoes and all the beer one could drink. I would ask everyone to bring whatever they thought they made the best to share. And if you were not able to bring anything they would always be welcomed.

And hopefully by next Thanksgiving, I’d be able to afford it.

What a great story! So again, this year’s Thankspigging event will start at 4 p.m. this Thursday at Skinny Legs. All are welcome.

PS: I can’t believe its Thanksgiving already!! 🙂

2 thoughts on “The Story of St. John’s Thankspigging”

  1. Love, Love, Love the story about Thankspigging! Thanks for sharing and I hope everyone who reads it tells or shows someone else who doesn’t know about this site. Hope sometime I get to be on island for this. I live in PA but would definitely make something at the rental house to bring and share.

Leave a Comment