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What Gainesville, Hall County leaders are thankful for this Thanksgiving
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A Thanksgiving Day turkey sits in the dining room Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, at Manor Lake Assisted Living and Memory Care in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Before the turkey goes in the oven and footballs are tossed in the backyard, The Times caught up with six leaders across Gainesville and Hall County to ask them about their Thanksgiving traditions.

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Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan

Favorite tradition: We always gather as a family every Thanksgiving. Our family is sort of small, but we’re going to change it up a little this year and not do as much as we have been in the past because of COVID.

Favorite foods: I love homemade dressing and turkey and pecan pie.

What he is thankful for: I’m thankful for many blessings. I’m thankful for our great city we live in and my family and my grandchildren and the good Lord.

Jim Grier
Jim Grier
Lula Mayor Jim Grier

Favorite tradition: Gathering with family. 

Favorite foods: Turkey, cranberries and dressing.

What he is thankful for: I’m thankful that all of our family is safe and well and just hope that it will continue that way.

Jeremy Williams --NEW
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams

Favorite tradition: Growing up, it was always gathering with the family and watching a little football, and then, as I got married and had kids and some family members passed on or were not able to join, we started our own tradition, so two years in a row, we’ve been at Disney (World) leading up to Thanksgiving.

Favorite foods: I love dressing.

What he is thankful for: In a world of COVID, being able to celebrate things that seem normal now.

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Gerald Couch 2019
Sheriff Gerald Couch - photo by Scott Rogers
Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch

Favorite tradition: All of my family for years have come to my house for Thanksgiving, but sadly they won’t be able to this year. … What I plan on doing is delivering the holiday meals and putting it on their doorsteps so they can at least enjoy that hopefully. We won’t be getting together this year. That’s my greatest thing is everybody coming to my house.

Favorite foods: My mother is a great cook. She cooks probably the best cornbread dressing that I’ve ever had. 

What he is thankful for: I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for friends and especially our community. I’m thankful for the service of the men and women and the sacrifice that they make at the Sheriff’s Office to our community. Perhaps more than anything this year, I’m thankful for hope — hope for the next year and the good things it might bring with it. When we close the book on this year, I hope and pray we can put aside all the bad things that happened and learn from them and try to make 2021 the best it can be. 

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Newtown Florist Club executive director Rose Johnson has been been helping the club reach its goals since she was a child, when she attended her first meeting with some of the older club members. - photo by Scott Rogers
Newtown Florist Club Executive Director Rose Johnson

Favorite tradition: In our family, one of the biggest traditions has always been going around to visit our family members. We would have dinner at my mom’s house and then we would go around to visit all our aunts, uncles and cousins. … It’s pretty amazing to be able to see everybody in fellowship and show some love and keep moving.

Favorite foods: The kids would say macaroni, but it would always be the collard greens and cornbread for me. 

What she is thankful for: I am thankful for the grace of God. I am thankful for the peace that I have just deep in my soul in the midst of a nation that is going through a troubling time, but the hope that I have in that kind of peace is the way that I really want to walk into the new year. 

Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish
Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish

Favorite tradition: My whole life, Thanksgiving has always meant the outdoors. From a little kid, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving because it meant a long weekend of hunting or fishing with my dad. … I was trying to think this morning: There’s not been a Thanksgiving weekend probably in 40 years that I was home for Thanksgiving. We always would have a Thanksgiving meal and then head out to an outdoor trip, and that’s continued since I became a father. For the last five years, we go down to Apalachicola Bay every year for a fishing trip.

Favorite foods: We’re very traditional with turkey and dressing, all the side vegetables. Nothing way out there, but I think probably key lime pie is my favorite. I always have to save room for that.

What he is thankful for: This year, obviously everybody will refer to 2020 as being a crazy time, events that were from the pandemic to everything we’ve experienced. I’m just thankful for life. I’m thankful that we had those trials and tribulations, because we grew from them. We learned. Even though we had a shelter-in-place (order), that meant being sheltered with my family. I try to find the bright side of everything that went wrong or bad and see how we can grow from it. I’m just thankful to have the job I have, the family I have and serve the God I serve.