The Season of Giving: Bates College Hosts Annual Harvest Dinner


There is nothing more reminiscent of the holiday season than waking up to those first snowflakes. Therefore, it was fitting that the first snow at Bates College was marked by the annual Harvest Dinner. 

From the outside, Commons appeared normal, the warm air and cheerful atmosphere coaxing students out of the cold November night. Little did people know what festivities awaited them inside. 

“Woah.” This was first-year Grace Yonchak’s first reaction upon stepping foot into Commons. Those entering were greeted with live music performed by Denny Breu and Friends and a completely transformed dining hall. Decorations covering Commons ranged from streamers hanging from the balcony to “B” ice sculptures on display for students while they made their plates. 

A stream-lined buffet style setup was positioned by the entrance, where students could fill their plates with Thanksgiving staples like turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce (albeit no stuffing). Roasted eggplant, wild rice and lobster mac and cheese bake were delicious additions to the harvest spread. “I was so excited that they had lobster mac and cheese, and the ice sculptures were really cool,” said Kailah Greenberg ‘26. 

Harvest dinner is an over 40 year old tradition that many students look forward to, with Commons chefs producing new and exciting items for others to enjoy. The event has impacted students past and present. 

“Being at Harvest Dinner was like a little taste of home,” Michael Lieber ‘92 said. “Plus, not being from New England, I got to learn about some regional favorites like Indian pudding, which is delicious.”

Though a longstanding tradition, the festivity has not always been celebrated in this fashion. The “particular [Harvest Dinner] format” that students experienced, and have been experiencing for the past 26 years, is the brainchild of Christine Schwartz, the associate vice president of dining conferences and campus events at Bates. 

This version of the Harvest Dinner, not experienced since before the COVID-19 pandemic, was not only marked by live music performance, but also by a horse-drawn wagon that took students on rides around campus by two horses named Captain and Belle. Dessert was served in the Gray Cage, shortly followed by Bates’ traditional “Trashion Show,” an opportunity for students to design and showcase original looks made from recycled goods around campus. 

There were many different elements involved in orchestrating the event. However, the Dining Conferences and Events staff with the help of volunteers consisting of faculty and coaches among others, “have it down to a science,” said Cheryl Lacey, director of dining services. “There’s a lot that goes down behind the scenes. A lot of planning goes into the event,” she added. From the time Commons closed at 2:00 p.m., dining staff and volunteers decorated, transforming the space into a festive retreat. 

“The sense of community and family” is Lacey’s favorite part of the annual tradition. The Harvest Dinner not only allowed students to celebrate an early Thanksgiving, but also worked to create an environment of home away from home. 

“We are so grateful that you let us be part of your family, so we want to give back,” Lacey said. “The spirit of community is why we do it.”