A child’s Thanksgiving: St. Francis, Garfield students share holiday traditions

Friends, family, turkey and even the whole wide world are on St. Francis and Garfield students' list of what their grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Evangeline Rufener

“I’m thankful that God made a world for us, and I’m also thankful for how he built us and how we’re all different.”

Evangeline Rufener, a second-grader at Garfield Elementary School, was one of several students who shared with the Brainerd Dispatch what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Likewise, St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School second-grader Fletcher Scofield said Thanksgiving is “about giving thanks for what God gave us,” and first-grader Miles Mehr said he’s thankful “for everybody in the whole wide world,” and of course, that “there’s stuff to eat and drink.”

More specifically, St. Francis second-grader Irene Steinhauser said she’s thankful for fruits and vegetables to eat.


Along with gratitude for his family, Garfield second-grader Drake Van Horn is grateful for “beds to sleep on so you don’t have to sleep on the floor. And blankets.”

St. Francis second-grader Vincent Baratto said he is thankful for the military, and other student’s answers included thankfulness for Thanksgiving turkey and family and friends.

“(I’m thankful for) my family because I feel safer with them,” St. Francis second-grader Kate Binsfeld said.

Holiday traditions

Some families, like those of St. Francis first-graders Johnathan Diederich and Nora Ehalt, might go out to eat for that Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing instead of staying in. And some years they may eat some not-so-traditional holiday food.

“Sometimes we go out to eat and eat something else — like sushi,” Ehalt said.

Though turkey and corn are usually on the menu, St. Francis first-grader Vincent Baratto said his favorite Thanksgiving food is actually pepperoni pizza.

Turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie were among the favorite Thanksgiving foods for other students, except for Garfield second-grader Clareese Daniels, who doesn’t care for turkey.

“I don’t like turkey, so my grandma makes me chicken,” she said. “And she makes me mashed potatoes, and she makes a lot of other stuff.”


While they’re gathered around the table for their meal, she said her family also takes turns saying what they’re thankful for.

Van Horn described another Thanksgiving staple for his family: “Some kind of Jell-O. It’s like round, and it’s in a cup and there’s lumps,” he said as he moved his hands to demonstrate the lumps.

Quite a few students said they spend time with family and play games with siblings and cousins during Thanksgiving.

“We play with our cousins, and we go into the basement and we have this gymnastics mat, and we tackle our dad,” Steinhauser said of her holiday family fun.

Garfield second-grader Isabella Carter said her family plays “lots of fun games,” like jump roping.

Cooking a turkey

Baratto wasn’t sure how his family’s turkey is cooked, but he knows his dad goes hunting for it in the morning.

St. Francis first-grader Duncan Wipper knows the turkey has to be cooked in warm water, and Carter said it has to go in the oven.

“But only grown-ups can do that,” she added.


Steinhauser isn’t sure how to make the turkey either, but this year she’s going to learn with her grandma. She’s also going to make Crock-Pot corn with her mom.

Rufener, however, is somewhat of an expert when it comes to cooking turkey.

“We usually put it in a pan,” she said. “Well, we wait for it to thaw out, and then we put it in a pan, and we cook it. And then after it’s cooked for just a little, we put melted butter on it, and we add salt and pepper and a little bit of garlic, and then we put it back in, and then it’s done.”

Rufener, Carter, Daniels and Van Horn celebrated with pre-Thanksgiving activities during their Kinship Partners lunch buddies program at Garfield Tuesday, Nov. 26. They raced their buddies while rolling sweet potatoes and played a gratitude game with Skittles, discussing what they’re thankful for in their lives.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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