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Food, Friends and Football: South Plainfield’s Thanksgiving Traditions

Bob Jones

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 • 4:00am

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – When South Plainfield’s Tigers take the field against North Plainfield tomorrow for the annual Thanksgiving Day game, the matchup will be one of about three dozen long-running rivalries taking place throughout the state.

Thanksgiving games—also known as Turkey Day games—are a custom that date back over 100 years. The Millville-Vineland game is New Jersey’s oldest, beginning in 1894.  Closer to home, the Westfield-Plainfield rivalry started in 1900 and celebrated its 100th game in 2005.     

The North Plainfield-South Plainfield matchup first hit the field in 1956. While the game is not as old as some, it’s just as intense. “It was always the last game of the year and the whole school turned out,” said Bob Jeronowitz, an SPHS graduate from 1981.      

This year will mark the 40th time the two teams will clash. The competition took a hiatus between 1984 and 2001 when conference schedules forced the two rivals to play other towns (South Plainfield played Piscataway and Dunellen on Thanksgiving in some of the intervening years), but it started up again in 2002. 

“It was disappointing when we stopped playing North Plainfield,” said 1971 SPHS graduate Linda Dashuta, “but I was thrilled when they revived the game.”

The game draws hundreds of SPHS alumni, many who return home from college and many who have children and even grandchildren of their own who head to the game.    

One of those alumni is South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh, a 1990 SPHS grad. Anesh and his counterpart from North Plainfield will present the trophy to the winning team. 

“I remember seeing the mayors present the trophy when I was a growing up,” said Anesh, “and I’m hoping to hand it to South Plainfield’s team this year.”

But the North-South rivalry isn’t the town’s only holiday tradition. Recent SPHS graduates—and many not-so-recent grads—travel back to their hometown the night before Thanksgiving in what has become a tradition of its own. 

“It’s a night to reunite with all your old high-school buddies,” said Walter Kurilew, owner of KC’s Korner and an SPHS grad himself.  

According to Kurilew, the night before Thanksgiving is one of his busiest of the year. “You see friends you haven’t seen in ages. The tradition has been going on as long as I can remember.” 

Whether it’s heading home for turkey and mashed potatoes, meeting up with old friends at KC’s Korner, or heading to the North-South football game, Thanksgiving traditions abound in South Plainfield.  As one longtime resident put it: “They’re part of the small-town atmosphere makes our town thrive.” 

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