PINETOP-LAKESIDE – Trevor and Evan Lehr, owners of The Lodge Sports Bar & Grill, started something eight years ago that has become a tradition for many in the White Mountain community — a free Thanksgiving dinner.

Now, in its eighth year, they are preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 200 people.

Their mother, Pamela Arlaud, branch manager of WaFd Bank in Show Low, was pretty proud in 2012 knowing that both her sons were in college and headed toward what she believed to be successful careers.

She said Trevor experienced a devastating relationship breakup that year and came home where he retreated to the couch. After a time of healing, she thought he should “get out of his funk” and asked what he planned to do. To her surprise, he told her he was going to buy a bar. That was December 2012. And to top it off, he convinced his brother Evan to join him, and they bought the bar.

Arlaud watched them open the business with opposition from the community, along with the fact that they had no experience in running a bar. They both persevered in spite of the issues they had to confront and earned their PhDs in business from the school of hard knocks.

“Now it is a successful business” said Arlaud. “It takes them and everyone in the family to contribute. It is a family sports bar and grill during the week and a packed nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Their vision for the bar was for it to be a neighborhood bar like Cheers, the television sitcom. Today, Trevor and Evan, the family and their loyal employees do know all the regular’s names. But, on Thanksgiving, they don’t have to know your name to welcome you.

When they began the free Thanksgiving dinner, they just wanted to just give back to the community.

“I don’t remember how many came that first year,” said Arlaud, “but last year we had 175 and we are planning for 200 this year.”

Though they are her boys, Arlaud said they are both good cooks and have big hearts. She said Evan actually becomes Chef Ramsay in the kitchen for this dinner.

“Are you watching the gravy, Mother?” And, I say, “Yes, Chef.”

Arlaud said they laugh and cry together during preparation and sometimes throw a potato or two at each other for fun.

That first year when the family pitched in to make the dinner a reality, they made the turkeys, mashed potatoes, homemade from-scratch rolls, gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and all the other fixings.

“It is fresh, wholesome food,” said Arlaud.

Before the pandemic, they had served buffet style throughout the day. In order to provide social distancing last year, they offered four seatings beginning at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The venue transformed from a sports bar to a real dining experience with table cloths, and centerpieces made by her daughter Jenny, and Trevor and Evan served the meals.

In the infancy of their Thanksgiving dinner, employees wanted to be at home with their families, but as it has continued to grow each year, Arlaud said they realize its value and want to be a part of it.

Three years ago the Love Kitchen did not have enough volunteers to put on a Thanksgiving Dinner and looked for someone to partner with. They joined The Lodge and all of those folks are expected to return.

Arlaud said they have everything down to a science with family, old volunteers and new volunteers helping.

WaFd Bank and Pioneer Title have stepped up to help support the dinner, as has Baked in Pinetop which provides the rolls; Hushhh Bakeshop contributes their famous bread pudding; and Shannon, the wonderful chef who was with LaVie and Chef Rob, who has a food truck business, join in to also help.

Arlaud’s mashed potatoes are popular with her family. As the numbers have increased for the dinner, Arlaud suggested to Evan that they do instant potatoes. She said with a shocked look he replied with an emphatic no. So, they are cooking 50 pounds of potatoes.

Arlaud did get her way on a few less labor-intensive things — after all, she is the mother. This year there will be paper plates and plastic silverware. They have also farmed out the boiled eggs and yams.

Because they had a difficult year with the pandemic, Arlaud had asked Trevor and Evan if they would do the dinner this year. Without hesitation, they said yes — because they have done it every year.

With an expected food shortage this year, Evan and Arlaud started buying food for Thanksgiving the first week in October and searched out the best prices. They bought 20 turkeys this year.

Pam said the dinner is not just for regulars, but for anyone who does not want to be alone or has no place to go. She said it attracts people from all walks of life. People from Pinetop Country Club come in and sit and interact with the homeless and their children — it is just people together.

They will also deliver Thanksgiving dinner to people in the Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low area.

When the food is served, everyone stands up and holds hands in gratitude for the food. They shout out what they are grateful for and then raise their hands together.

“It is our tradition that we pass on to other people,” said Arlaud.

The Lodge is located at 857 E. White Mountain Boulevard. For reservations, or to volunteer call (928) 358-4602.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.