1:10 A.M. — When he and his wife moved from Long Island, N.Y., to San Carlos Park 30 years ago, Walter Hoffmann made a point of inviting as many friends and strangers as he could to his family?s Thanksgiving feasts.
?He?d always tell people, ?Come over. We?ll just put another potato in the pot,?? said Missy Hoffman, the wife of one of Walter Hoffmann?s nine children.
Decades later, Missy and Paul Hoffmann are continuing the family?s oversized Turkey Day tradition. After weeks of planning, the Hoffmanns will host 45 people for Thanksgiving dinner tonight at their two-story San Carlos Park home. The gathering, which will include 14 friends who had nowhere else to go, is one of Southwest Florida?s largest Thanksgiving celebrations.
The feast, which will feature 53 pounds of turkey and 30 pounds of mashed potatoes, will have guests seated at eight tables in the dining and living rooms and outdoor patio.
?It?s a lot of work, but when you?re sitting there for dinner and you look around and see those faces, you know why you did it,? Missy Hoffmann said. ?I feel grateful and blessed to have this amount of family that still wants to be together.?
Missy ? whose husband owns San Carlos Roofing, a business that employs her and other family members ? declined to say how much they spent on the meal.
Although Paul and Missy Hoffmann buy and cook the turkeys, other members of the Hoffmann clan chips in to make some of the side dishes.
One family member brings the broccoli cheese casserole, another brings 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, another brings desserts and so on.
?It?s real organized,? said Mario Lopez, a family friend who will bring his wife, two sons (ages 24 and 19) and 10-year-old daughter. ?The Hoffmanns have been doing this for so long they have it down pat.?
Missy said she tries to purchase meal items a little at a time over a span of three weeks so it?s not a huge financial hit.
?Three weeks ago, I saw that green beans were on sale so I bought four cans,? Missy Hoffmann said. ?And I know I?m going to need lots of flour and butter, so I have 10 pounds of butter in my refrigerator right now.?
The home changes
A large part of the feast?s preparations involves fixing up the family?s two-story home. In order to accommodate 45 chairs and eight tables, the Hoffmanns have to move almost all of the family?s furniture outside.
Today, you?ll find the family?s two living room couches, a recliner chair, a coffee table and an exercise bike on their porch.
?It?s only about a 1,000-square-foot home, so we?re used to squeezing together,? said Keri Harty, Missy Hoffmann?s niece. ?Missy gets a bunch of folding tables, and she has them everywhere.?
Missy likes to say that her Thanksgiving Day feast is held throughout her home.
Guests will be seated at tables in the dining and living rooms and patio. The Hoffmanns plan to leave the living room?s sliding glass doors open so guests outside can be a part of the dinner discussion.
Despite the tight quarters, Harty said her family has few quarrels on Thanksgiving. She said her extended family, almost all of which lives in Lee County, has an unspoken rule not to fight.
?We have everything in our family from super liberal Democrats to super conservative Republicans, and it can get quite heated at some points, but we don?t fight,? Harty said. ?If someone makes you upset, you just walk away, and then we come back and we?re together again.?
Lopez, who has been attending the Hoffmanns? Thanksgiving feasts since 1997, marvels at how well the family interacts and how it continually opens its door to strangers.
Lopez said the Hoffmanns ?adopted? him and his family 13 years ago.
?We moved here from Long Island because my wife got a job down here and we didn?t have any family here so they just adopted us,? Lopez said with a laugh. ?We met through a baseball team that had one of my sons and one of their sons.?
Lopez said the Hoffmanns invite his family for every birthday or holiday celebration, and he rarely turns them down.
?It?s great to have family, especially at this time of year,? Lopez said. ?I came from a big family in Long Island and it?s great to have a big family here in Florida.
?The Hoffmanns are very special people.?