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Post-WWII Thanksgiving tradition continues

Newark American Legion Post hosts Smoker tonight

NEWARK — As members of the community gather for Newark American Legion Post #459’s annual Smoker and Turkey Raffle Wednesday night, they’ll be continuing a tradition that began more than 60 years ago.

According to Pat Schuerman, commander of the post’s Sons of the American Legion, the event was designed to get men out of the house as their wives cooked the Thanksgiving meal. He said men could come down to the post to gather and smoke and socialize.

“It was a place where everybody came on Wednesday night and smoked their cigars and cigarettes,” he said. “Over the years, it’s just kind of progressed. They raffle off some turkeys and other oddball things.”

This year, the Smoker and Turkey Raffle is set to start at 6 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 21, at the post, which is located at 606 Fennel Road in Newark. Entry is $5 per person. Sandwiches will be served, and there are drink specials.

In addition to the various food raffles, which also include steaks and ham, there will also be options for card games, darts and pool. Schuerman’s expecting the evening to draw in about 100 to 150 people, although he said he’d love to see a larger crowd like in years past.

“We have just a good ol’ time,” Scheurman said. “ ... It’s a fun, merry event.”

Shuerman said he couldn’t pin down when exactly the tradition began, but one thing area old-timers told him was that it was in the years following World War II.

“I tried to come up with a date, but nobody knew,” he said.

Today, instead of just clearing the house, the evening is one that benefits the post.

“It’s a good fundraiser — it keeps the doors open,” Schuerman said. “We enjoy it.”

Post Commander Norm Meier said the night has become the post’s only fundraiser, as it has had to stop its wild game dinner. He said it tends to be a popular gathering for locals.

“I think everybody that comes seems to have a good time,” he said. “It’s a pretty nice social event for people to come to and spend time together, and they can kind of do what they want there — they can play different card games, we have pool tables and a dart machine.”

He said the night even draws some people who are out of the area but come back to town for the holiday.

Meier said the evening is open to the community.

“Anybody’s welcome to come,” he said. “There’s all kinds of games to get involved with there — Texas Hold ‘Em, Euchre, poker, or, if they like to stand around and compare notes with each other ... we let them do that, too.”

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