Drew Paige and her family host Thanksgiving every year at her parent’s house near Gatesville, usually attended by dozens of extended family members.

CORYELL COUNTY – Last year, COVID-19 put only a slight damper on Drew Paige and family’s Thanksgiving celebration as fewer people attended the annual open house gathering just outside Gatesville, but this year promises a return to a capacity crowd.

“We didn’t put as big an invite out there last year, but there still was probably 20-plus people at the house,” said Paige, an Air Force veteran who works now as a recovery room nurse in Waco. “For as long as I can remember, we have been having Thanksgiving at my mom and dad’s house.

“Even after they died, we all continued to have it here. When I lived in Houston and my sister lived down the road, we still came and had Thanksgiving at their house. Then, when I moved up here, I continued to carry on the tradition.”

Drew and her sister, Andrea, grew up with their mother, Margaret, and father, Dean Meeks, a well-known and free-spirited dairy farmer who played college football for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at Texas A&M University, flew his own airplane, and also once attempted a solo sailing trip across the Atlantic Ocean. That once-in-a-lifetime adventure was captured in a book written by Drew and available at Amazon: “Odyssey of a Texas Sailor.”

A few years ago, Drew moved back from the Gulf Coast area to the family homestead and lived with her husband, Todd, in her childhood home. Recently, she and Todd built another house on the property and her daughter moved with her family into the old house.

Planning for this year’s holiday feast started the last part of October or early November. All the standard Thanksgiving items are on the menu, including turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, and assorted side dishes and desserts.

“Last month or the beginning of this month, we sat down with a list of what we’re making and what items we needed to get, and we started buying ahead of time,” said Drew, who enjoys cooking with her daughter.

“I do a lot of cooking, and my daughter and I do a lot of cooking together. My husband smokes a turkey and then he has a greaseless deep fryer … so he does the turkeys. I know that prices are higher this year, but it’s one of those things that I just don’t care — it’s the holidays. I even bought one of those $60 briskets this year because while Todd is doing the turkeys, he’s going to go ahead and do a brisket, too.”

Along with the holiday food fest, Drew and crew have a couple of other longstanding family traditions. One is painting ornaments for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, and the other is singing karaoke in front of the fireplace.

A mother of three and grandmother of six, Drew says she has a lot to be thankful for this year, and one thing at the top of the list is her daughter and son-in-law moving closer. And as always, she is excited about the annual Thanksgiving week get-together, which has continued to evolve and grow over the years.

“I always invite lots of family and friends,” she said. “My daughter will tell you that you never know who’s going to come over. We just put a little invite out there to folks and some will call the day before and ask, ‘Can we come?’

“I’ll say, ‘Sure, c’mon.’

“I love it. Different people come over and they all bring things, so there are usually more desserts than you can eat. The more desserts, the better. One really cool thing is, about five or six years ago, my daughter invited her mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law to come up. They started coming and that is really neat.”

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