DEADWOOD — The Deadwood Social Club and Charlie Utter theater were packed with Empty Bowl participants Wednesday night, as the annual food bank benefit, designed to draw awareness for World Hunger Day, once again proved to be a huge draw with hundreds of supporters, raising close to $3,000.
Some participants arrived super early in order to score the best bowls, which were fired and glazed in an eclectic array of every size, shape and color imaginable.
"I don't even know how many there are," said Empty Bowls organizer Jerry Rawlings. "People just drop off boxes of bowls. We're going through quite a few, so I would call this a success once again. I would like to offer a big thank you to Louie Lalonde. I would also like to thank the students who helped us out. We couldn't have done it without them."
Then, for the soup. Big, big pots of soups.
Deadwood Social Club restaurant manager Doug Hanson relied on tried and true favorites, while mixing things up a little. He and assistant Caleb Storm spent seven hours whipping up 60 gallons of homemade soup to fill patrons' empty bowls. By 6:15 pm., they'd gone through about 40 gallons.
"You know, I tried to choose favorites that people like -- potato bacon, broccoli and cheese, fire roasted tomato, corn chowder, chicken and wild rice, split pea and ham, vegetable, stuffed pepper and spicy black bean and corn, white bean and bacon," Hanson rattled off. "Then I tried to throw in a couple of unique, special ones like spiced pumpkin, por-chick-abee. So there's a real variety."
And there were a few young folks that everyone involved kept pointing to. Members of the Lead-Deadwood football team, who suited up to serve up soup.
"It helps out a lot to have the local football team here," Hanson said. "It helps them learn how to give back to the community and help people who are hungry."
Sophomore Digger Bridger Larson patiently performed ladle duty for two hours straight.
"I've never done this before," Larson said. "But I think it's nice public interaction. It's a good idea and I'm glad I can be a part of it."
Deadwood Social Club/Saloon No. 10 owner Louie Lalonde said the football team also scored kudos from her.
"It's a really important thing that we're teaching these young kids," Lalonde said. "To come and have a bowl of soup and the money that paid for it is helping another little boy or girl have a bowl of soup who might otherwise go without."
Lalonde added that the weather couldn't have turned on a more perfect night.
"This is that one event every year that I look forward to doing," Lalonde said. "Whether it's five of 500 people that show up, you walk away feeling good because you made a difference. Only Mother Nature in Deadwood could set the perfect atmosphere for tonight, with just a few snowflakes falling, just enough to make it feel like it's soup season."
With a total of $2,752 set to be split between the Spearfish Community Food Pantry and The Lord's Cupboard in Lead, Rawlings said the food banks are always appreciative of Empty Bowls efforts.
"They're always so grateful when we come in with the check," Rawlings said. "They've said in the past, 'This will buy a lot of people Thanksgiving dinner.'"