Thanksgiving Traditions

By Luan Peszek

As we get close to Thanksgiving weekend, we asked members of the men's and women's National Teams about their holiday traditions, their favorite Thanksgiving foods and how they will celebrate this year. Here are their responses:


REBECCA BROSS: My favorite Thanksgiving food is either turkey or mashed potatoes.

BRIDGET SLOAN: My family always goes to my Aunt Kae's house in Illinois for Thanksgiving. My family is really big and we always have a great time, lots of food, family and fun.

KAYLA WILLIAMS: Thanksgiving gets pretty big at my house. We wake up early and watch the Macy's Parade, while my mom starts cooking the turkey. Later my grandma, uncle, and cousins come over and we all start cooking and making food together. My favorite Thanksgiving Day food is probably turkey and mashed potatoes.

WES HAAGENSEN: This Thanksgiving may be different from all of my past. I usually go to my grandparents to celebrate Thanksgiving, where we always have a big traditional turkey dinner with stuffing (which is my favorite), mashed potatoes and gravy, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and my Grandmother's specialty - Cherry Cheesecake Pie. We also always dry out the turkey bone and pull it in half, and whoever got the bigger half would get to make a wish. This year I won't make it back to Illinois, but my father lives in Henry, Neb., which is only a few hours drive from the OTC, so I'm hoping to celebrate the day with my dad and his wife.

JONATHAN HORTON: We have no Thanksgiving plans yet. We are going to be pretty spontaneous and figure out what we want to do when the time comes. Typically my family gets together and we have a big celebration and we eat A LOT! That is what my family does, but I would assume that now that I am married, Haley and I will start some new traditions and spend equal time with both of our families. Also, I would have to say my favorite Thanksgiving food is green bean casserole.

TIM MCNEILL: I live in California now so making it home to Virginia is pretty difficult. Luckily I will be able to spend Thanksgiving with my girlfriend's family. I can't wait to have loads of turkey and gravy! Growing up back home my only responsibility on Thanksgiving was to make pumpkin bread. I haven't done it in a few years now. I hope I haven't lost my touch.

JAKE DALTON: My plans for Thanksgiving are to go to Colorado to my sister's house. We are all meeting there for a family dinner. Ham is my favorite Thanksgiving food. Our family traditions are just to have a nice dinner and sit around talking and enjoying time with our family.

IVANA HONG: I don't have any big plans for Thanksgiving. Hopefully my sister, Isabelle, who is in California for college, and my Dad will come to Texas for the holidays. My favorite food for Thanksgiving would have to be green bean casserole.

NASTIA LIUKIN: This year my mom and I are planning to go to Moscow to visit my grandparents, great grandparents and other family and friends. I think we will be home in time for Thanksgiving dinner with my Dad. My parents both put together an amazing dinner. Believe it or not, my dad is a REALLY good cook!

SAMANTHA PESZEK: My family usually has a pretty common Thanksgiving. My mom's side of the family always meets at my grandma's house for an early dinner. My favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey of course! Although the meal is nice, the best part about Thanksgiving for me is catching up with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. We always play some really intense card games. My family is a little on the competitive side, but I love it!

CAMERON ROGERS: For Thanksgiving this year, my family is going to Hilton Head Island for a mini-vacation. Normally we spend Thanksgiving at home with my extended family, but my parents decided to get away for a few days this year. My favorite Thanksgiving Day food is the desserts. My family always has tons of different desserts, and I always look forward to the desserts more than the dinner.

MATTIE LARSON: This Thanksgiving my family and I plan to keep it local and celebrate at our house. Sometimes cousins will come over, but it's usually just our immediate family. My favorite Thanksgiving Day food would have to be any dessert my mom makes. I'll always remember celebrating Thanksgiving in Guatemala with the national team in 2007. I also remember one Thanksgiving when I was about 6, my family's dryer caught on fire right before our food was coming out of the oven! It was an interesting experience.

JORDYN WIEBER: I'm especially excited for Thanksgiving this year since I've been competing the last two Thanksgivings. This year we are going to my Grandma and Grandpa's house on my mom's side and my cousins will be there. My cousin, Maya, is one of my best friends, and I don't get to see her very often. We usually have some Lebanese food since my Grandma is 100% Lebanese. But I really loved Thanksgiving in Guatemala for Jr. Pan Ams two years ago. The Marines from the U.S. embassy invited us to their house for dinner, which was great.

DANELL LEYVA: I'll probably have dinner with the whole family. I love all the food my family makes. I don't have a favorite. As for traditions, we usually all get together at my grandparents' house and everyone helps with everything. It's an enjoyable time seeing all of my family.

STEVEN LEGENDRE: My Thanksgiving plans are to be home in Flower Mound, Texas, with my family, and to enjoy some great home cooking that I miss out on here at college. We don't really have any special traditions, aside from all getting together and cooking/eating way more than usual. It's always a great time, and a nice change of pace.

ALAINA JOHNSON: I'm going to Columbia, S.C., to be with my sister, who lives there and is a nurse. My mom, dad and brother will be there too. My favorite Thanksgiving food is sweet potato casserole.

ALEX BUSCAGLIA: Regarding Thanksgiving, I will be heading home to Chicago for Thanksgiving this year. As much as I dislike the cold, I love going home to more seasonal weather than we experience here in California. I'll be with my sister (Ashley), her fiance, my aunt, uncle, and cousins for the day. My favorite Thanksgiving Day food would have to be the bean casserole that my family makes (with canned mushroom soup). There is always a fight over who gets to take home the leftovers (my sister and I usually win).

KAITLYN CLARK: Every year we go to Campland by the Bay in San Diego and camp in our motor home with my family -- Dad, Mom, brother Matt, sister Bree and brother Kyle. My favorite Thanksgiving Day food is pumpkin pie and whipped cream! We eat Thanksgiving dinner as we overlook the bay. We have so much fun playing football and going on the water boats. I am thankful for my family and the memories we share each Thanksgiving.

WYATT AYCOCK: Regarding Thanksgiving, I plan to eat a lot of food. I will celebrate the day with my family and my girlfriend. My favorite Thanksgiving Day foods are turkey and ham.

JAKE DASTRUP: Every Thanksgiving we switch off going to my grandma and grandpa's on each side. This year we are going to the grandparents on my dad's side. They own a big ranch. We have lots of family come over and go four-wheeling and hanging out with cousins that we don't see often. It is very fun!

JORDAN VALDEZ: This year for Thanksgiving I'm planning to just relax at home (in Texas). Unfortunately I won't be going to visit my family this holiday because they live in Colorado and I only have a few days off from school. Most likely I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my girlfriend and her family or one of my close teammate's families. My favorite Thanksgiving food is definitely turkey and mashed potatoes. It might not be the healthiest food but there is only one Thanksgiving a year. One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was several years ago; we went up to my Nana's house with my entire family and had this huge dinner with three whole turkeys. It was awesome to see all of my family sitting at one table eating dinner together.

SOPHINA DEJESUS: My plan for this Thanksgiving is to go over to my uncle's house. He lives in Glendale and he just had a baby girl, so I am very excited to see my new niece. I will celebrate the day with my whole family, which includes my sister Savannah and my brother Izaia (he is in the Air Force and is coming home for Thanksgiving) and my mom and dad. Also my 7 cousins and all my uncles and aunties will be there. My favorite Thanksgiving food is my granddad's homemade banana pudding and my auntie's sweet potatoe pie!

SAMANTHA SHAPIRO: My family always has a big Thanksgiving gathering with lots of family friends. The whole group gets together and we spend the entire day cooking, watching football, and playing basketball and other games until it is time for dinner. This year Thanksgiving will be even more special because my grandma, aunt, uncle and cousin from Indianapolis are coming to Los Angeles to spend the holiday with us.

DYLAN AKERS: I'll celebrate Thanksgiving with my family! My grandma will come down for sure. I love pumpkin pie. It's the best.


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