FORT WORTH -- On Election Day, crowds won't just be gathering at polling places.
For some, the day will mark an early start to Thanksgiving, as Central Market and its parent company, HEB, host their first Feast of Sharing event in Tarrant County.
The Nov. 6 event will include a turkey dinner, live entertainment, photos with Santa and a free gift for children and will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth.
"It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you will be served," said Heather Senter, a Central Market spokeswoman.
The annual event started 24 years ago in Corpus Christi and Laredo. It has grown to include 30 feasts across Texas and Mexico and is expected to feed about 275,000 people this year. HEB won't reveal how much it spends on the feasts. The first feast came to North Texas in 2005 at Fair Park in Dallas. Fort Worth employees have been lobbying for their own feast ever since.
In the first year in Dallas, about 3,500 people were served, but Austin Jourde, general manager of the Fort Worth store and chairman of the event, said he hopes to exceed that mark in Fort Worth.
"We're competitive with Dallas," Jourde said. "We would like to top 5,000."
To help people get to the event, The T, Fort Worth's Transportation Authority, has agreed to provide vouchers for free bus rides.
Vouchers will be available at various social service agencies, churches and nonprofit organizations throughout the city, as well as at Central Market-Fort Worth, 4651 West Freeway (on the corner of Hulen Street and Interstate 30 in the Chapel Hill Shopping Center).
Central Market officials also want to offer free parking at the event. Jourde said they're willing to pay but are still in discussions with the city over that issue.
To serve the food, a 45-foot mobile trailer capable of cooking more than 2,500 meals per hour will be brought to Fort Worth. The mobile kitchen is operated by a seven-member staff that includes retired HEB employees and is followed around the state by two 53-foot trailers full of food and supplies.
Organizers also need about 600 volunteers and are making an appeal for help. Anyone wishing to volunteer can e-mail Justin Combs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers can also call the main number at Central Market's Fort Worth store, 817-989-4700.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698