For students, faculty, staff or anyone in the Richland community who has nowhere to go for Thanksgiving Day, one professor has an answer. Physical education professor Bill Neal and his wife, Donnie, are inviting the Richland community to their Lazy Gator Ranch in Canton for a delicious Thanksgiving feast Nov. 22.
“I do this because I’ve spent Thanksgiving alone before, and it wasn’t very much fun,” Neal said. “It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year. I have so much to be thankful for. I guess maybe that’s why it’s my favorite holiday.”
Neal has a spacious log home on 50 acres and an assortment of animals, namely dogs, cats, goats, chickens, horses and cows. He’s been serving Thanksgiving dinner to the Richland community for 23 years and has been teaching at Richland for 47 years.
“I came here with the furniture,” he said.
Neal said his family doesn’t meet for Thanksgiving so it’s an opportunity to open up his ranch to those who might enjoy a day in the country. Those who come shouldn’t fear any gators running loose on his property.
“My property borders on Lazy Gator Creek and so I just picked up the name,” Neal said. “It’s Alligator Creek, but since I’m on there and it floods occasionally I tamed it by calling it the ‘Lazy Gator.’ There were [alligators] at one time, but not anymore.”
Neal and his wife plan to serve a Thanksgiving feast at 1 p.m. Normally, they host 10 to 30 guests. After that, folks can enjoy walking around the property, taking in the beautiful fall colors, visiting with friends, enjoying the animals, taking a nap or watching football.
Glen Sovian, a former Richland student from Indonesia, has attended Thanksgiving at the Lazy Gator Ranch several times.
“While some of the guests are Richland staff and faculty members, it often attracts a diverse student population,” Sovian said. “It is a good place to feel the holiday atmosphere for students who are away from their families or international students who want to experience this American tradition.”
Sovian said the couple serves a traditional Thanksgiving meal, which includes roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, yams, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies and more.
In addition to the food, Sovian said, guests can enjoy a tour of Neal’s ranch.
“They may get up close to the animals on the ranch,” he said. “Some may also watch a Thursday night football game.”
“To me though,” Sovian said, “the most enjoyable experience is the good fellowship with the other guests. I enjoy meeting new people from diverse backgrounds and professions.”
Besides the local Americans, I have met quite a few visitors from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. It’s nice to exchange our stories in a friendly atmosphere. Sometimes, we even converse in Spanish and French.”
Neal would like anyone who plans to come to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org so he and Donnie can provide enough food. They can email until the day before Thanksgiving or call 214-686-1039 with any questions.