WATERVILLE, Maine. (WABI) Blizzard-like conditions didn't stop folks in Waterville from braving the roads to enjoy a Christmas meal with friends and family.
While it didn't attract the numbers they're used to, the Elks Lodge hosted their 11th annual Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner despite the messy weather.
Ziggy Lawrence founded this Christmas tradition and has been running the event for ten years.
But with Lawrence moving away, Jeff Cucci, a longtime volunteer at the dinner, took over this year as organizer.
"You can't fill Ziggy's shoes because he knew exactly what was going on over those ten years, and so he's got a lot of tricks up his sleeve. And I can't fill those shoes. So we're all making the best of it and we're getting there. And the weather slowed us up a lot," said Cucci.
900 people are typically fed a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings when the weather cooperates.
But as Central Maine experienced near whiteout conditions at times on Christmas Day, hundreds chose not to risk the drive.
"There's a lot of people at home wishing they could be here. And we just had to shut down our taxi service," said Cucci.
Normally there are three vans out-and-about picking up folks and dropping them off at the lodge as well as bringing them back home after they've enjoyed their meal.
But this year, the roads were not plowed enough for the vans to safely travel back and forth.
"They're terrible, but you know, you should never spend Christmas alone. I just love coming out, brought some of my friends. They're just like family and what a great time," said Andrew, a Waterville resident.
"It took my family double the time so I know it's a bad year for driving and we thank the volunteers that did make it out," said volunteer Beth Wallinga.
It takes more than 150 volunteers for this tradition to continue year after year. 8-year-old Juliet has been coming to the dinner for three years now, and this is her first year manning the dessert cart.
"Pies, cupcakes, and cookies," said Juliet.
"She loves it! We had to shift vehicles so she could come and join us and she's having a great time," said Wallinga, Juliet's mom.
Some walked, others got a ride from friends, and some drove themselves to enjoy the company of others- some of whom would be alone on Christmas if it weren't for this community gathering.
"Very thankful they have all this food and fellowship, and hopefully they have some in with Santa and the balloons. We want to make it fun," said Wallinga.