Clyde Frederick squeezed his long-legged frame onto the small, round seat of the elementary school cafeteria table and dug into a dinner of chicken pie, slaw, green beans, cranberry sauce and roll, his grown son and four granddaughters seated beside him.
It was only his second year coming to the Wauka Mountain Chicken Pie Supper, and he had no idea how steeped in tradition the event was.
Told it was the 83rd annual supper, Frederick mused over what kept the tradition alive and kept people lining up year after year.
"It's because of the chicken, I guess," he said with a smile, adding, "Really, it's about the big sense of community, people coming together."
Young and old, elected officials and working-class folks sat elbow to elbow Saturday, eating chicken pie, talking and catching up.
"It's fantastic," Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield said. "Wauka Mountain is a perfect example of what a community school is supposed to be like."
The annual fundraiser, started in the kitchens of parents supporting the old Brookton School, is not only multigenerational, but attracts folks from nearby White County and other school districts, Schofield said. "People forget divisions," he said.
Carol O'Conner, a resident of Lanier Village Estates, has come to the dinner the last couple of years. She came Saturday with five of her friends."I love the food, I love the neighborly atmosphere," she said.
Theresa Barrett, a Wauka Mountain Elementary speech therapist who helped lead the dozens of volunteers cooking and serving, called it "the biggest community event that I've been a part of."
In the first 55 minutes, servers handled about 500 take-out plates, she said. "We had people waiting at 3:30 for us to open at 4 o'clock," she said.
Organizers expected to sell somewhere in the order of 3,000 to 4,000 plates before the dinner finished at 8 p.m.
Randy Johnson, general manager of J&J Foods, said his store got involved with the dinner about five years ago, contributing food and volunteering service as one of many sponsors for the event.
"It's just a big, fun family event we like to be a part of," Johnson said. "I get excited to see some of the folks that been around for a few years."
Said Barrett, "It has just built through word of mouth, and is something that's stayed so special for so many years."