The Gentle Barn to hold 19th annual “Gentle Thanksgiving”

Cuddle turkey Adeline sits on and cuddles with a Gentle Barn visitor at Santa Clarita's The Gentle Barn. Courtesy of The Gentle Barn

For many, the month of November means chowing down on a turkey dinner with family, but for those who do not eat meat, The Gentle Barn is opening its doors to provide a fun way to celebrate.

The Gentle Barn will host its 19th annual “A Gentle Thanksgiving” fundraiser celebration on Nov. 22 at its Santa Clarita location as well as its newer sites in Tennessee and Missouri. The event will offer guests an opportunity to cuddle and feed turkeys, participate in a drum circle and eat gourmet catered vegan food. All proceeds of the event will go toward supporting The Gentle Barn and its events.

Gentle Barn founder Ellie Laks said that the event began after she became more aware of how intelligent animals are.

“I kind of felt like an orphan because I didn’t want to go where animals were being hurt but also I didn’t want to eat alone, so I started this event as a way for myself and other people to celebrate life,” Laks said.

Laks said that over the years, the event changed from a potluck that served 700 people to a catered fundraiser with a cutoff of 300 people in order to preserve a sense of intimacy in the dinner and guarantee quality interaction with the turkeys. She said that the event has become something of a tradition for certain families who have come to the event for years and even travel across the globe to attend.

This year will be the first celebration for the newly rescued turkey Romeo, who Laks said is more affectionate and cuddles more than other male turkeys. Laks said the turkey cuddling and drum circle at the event is a way to help counter the “brutal” tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Thanksgiving really is a holiday about the start of when we began to take over Native American land and also we celebrate it without acknowledging how intelligent the turkeys are,” she said. “This is a tradition that’s really built on suffering and we really want to acknowledge the Native American heritage so we have a Native American chief come and tell stories then have the drum circle. The original drum beat is the heartbeat that we’re all born with, so we come together for the drum circle and when we leave we’re still connected and our hearts still beat as one.”

Even though Laks says many people are initially skeptical to attend the event and try a vegan Thanksgiving, she says they are always pleasantly surprised. She added that the family-friendly nature of the event makes it a perfect event for Santa Clarita.

“Santa Clarita is a place full of gentleness, family values and a more simplistic life where people can walk on the streets and feel safe,” she said. “Our event is all about those things and about love and represents exactly what Santa Clarita stands for.”

Tickets to “A Gentle Thanksgiving” are still available for purchase at this link and cost $200 for adults and $150 for children 12 and under.

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