Pep, Texas celebrates 66 years of Thanksgiving

Martha and Bobby Markham of Sudan have been coming to Pep for Thanksgiving dinner since 1951
Martha and Bobby Markham of Sudan have been coming to Pep for Thanksgiving dinner since 1951

PEP, TX (KCBD) - One of the smallest towns in the country is a hit this Thanksgiving. The town of Pep, located 50 miles northwest of Lubbock, held their annual church fundraiser on Thursday.

It's hard to believe in just three hours this town with a population of two people turned into more than 1,500. People from all over the South Plains flock every year to eat a turkey lunch cooked by Saint Phillip Neri Church members.

"The church is basically it," said Bridget Wells.

Members work up a sweat every year so they can keep their church open.

"I think there are seven towns represented in our church," Marcy Demel said.

This is not the church's first rodeo. They've been serving up Thanksgiving dinner for 66 years. Margaret Demel-Ruzicka was a senior at Pep High School in 1945. Her husband started the whole tradition.

"He wanted us to have a senior trip, so to get enough money he decided why don't we have a Thanksgiving turkey dinner?" Demel-Ruzicka said.

The school is no longer open, so the church took over. For $9 a plate, guests can enjoy plenty of food, no clean up and lots of small town hospitality. Visitors say you can't beat it.

"I guess because we're peppy," Demel said.

Martha and Bobby Markham of Sudan have been coming since 1951. These days they've learned to get here early.

"We get up first thing in the morning because we don't want to stand in line," Martha Markham said.

Gary Jungman drove 80 miles with his family to Pep. "We traveled from Plainview," Jungman said.

By the end of the day the church hopes to raise more than $35,000 and church members work hard to meet that goal.

"We made 6,000 pounds of sausage and we have our own recipe, 700 pounds of turkey, 150 pounds of turkey breast and we have mashed potatoes and green beans," Demel said.

As some members get older, the younger crowd picks up the slack. No matter who cooks or cleans, the people who come to Pep say it's the tradition that keeps them coming back for more.

"This is about like coming home," Markham said.

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