Thanksgiving falls on a Saturday for Amy and Steve Samuels, and it has for 33 years.

What’s more is that the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with family and friends alike and celebrate their common passion for football, not just in front of the TV but during a live action “Turkey Bowl.” This year, they celebrated at the Dundas Dome.

“This is literally the most important holiday on my calendar, and I’m not even part of the family,” said Kevin More, friend of the Samuelses.

Before heading to the Dundas Dome, the Samuels host their annual feast inside their Forest Avenue home in Northfield. Amy said her guests arrive early to snack on appetizers before the main course, and if the weather provides clear roads for all her guests to attend, those hors d’oeuvres are gone by noon.

Icy roads made for a “smaller” turnout than previous years, but the Samuels still hosted a full house Nov. 30. And between their three sons, a few nephews and friends of their sons’, there were 15 men on the Dundas Dome field participating in the annual game.

Amy and Steve moved into their Northfield home in 1986, the year they married. As a thank-you to anyone who helped plan their wedding, they decided to host a Thanksgiving meal in their new house. The tradition hasn’t stopped after 33 year; in fact, it’s grown to include even more friends and family.

Throughout the years Amy and Steve raised three sons, Joe, Josh and Jack, who all attended Northfield schools and played football. Heavily involved in sports, the Samuels’ sons developed longtime friendships with some of their teammates. Amy, meanwhile, became close friends with the moms of her sons’ teammates and continued meeting with them socially after her sons graduated. Some of them have traveled to Portugal together, and many have attended the Samuels’ Saturday Thanksgiving meal.

Joanne Corbin, a family friend of the Samuelses, said their tradition fits well into her schedule because they always host the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That way, she can celebrate Thanksgiving with her family on Thursday and with her friends two days later. Corbin’s son, Josh, grew up with the Samuels’ sons and continues attending their Thanksgiving meal for the food and the football. And since several of the sons’ friends are married with their children of their own, she said the turnout “keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Years ago, the football portion of the gathering began in the Samuels’ backyard with Amy’s uncles and Steve. The turnout of eventually outgrew the backyard, so they transferred their game to the St. Olaf College field for several years. The cold weather inspired them to take their game to the Dundas Dome about four years ago, and the participants laugh as they recall their first game in the dome falling on an exceptionally sunny day.

Gathered in the Samuels’ TV room after their meal, the relatives and friends recall some of their favorite memories of the “Turkey Bowl” throughout the years. Past injuries have turned into running jokes, and when they take digs at one another, it’s all in fun. Joe recalls when his cousin, Bethlehem Academy graduate Andrew Kratt, “tried harder than I’d ever seen him try.”

“He laid down on the pavement and left a puddle of sweat that stayed there for 15 minutes,” said Joe.

Later, preparing for the game itself, Joe said one of his favorite parts of the whole day is going back to his parents’ house to talk about their best plays of the game, as if they’re still in high school. According to Amy, they stay up until well past midnight talking and laughing.

“I love it; I love all these kids,” said Amy. “It’s just great to have everybody here. It just touches my heart.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

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