Norman Patry at Cranksgiving
Organizer Norman Patry, who owns Summer Feet Cycling, collects Cranksgiving 2017 food donations at Portland Gear Hub on Washington Avenue. The annual event, a benefit for the Westbrook Food Pantry, returns Nov. 13. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)
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All eyes are on the Thanksgiving dinner prize (The turkey! The potatoes! The many slices of many pies!).

I most love the cranberry sauce from a can and how it slowly slides from its cylindrical enclosure and hits the plate with a nostalgic and gelatinous thud. My mom used to make it the exact same way. 

Thanksgiving may be your abdomen’s most favorite and least favorite holiday, but before you dive into a bottomless pile of stuffing that you might decide to live in, you can do some good for yourself and for your community. 

Rebecca Boulos
Rebecca Boulos, of South Portland, revels in her Cranksgiving 2017 gravy purchase at Trader Joe’s in Portland. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Cranksgiving is a bicycle-based food drive/scavenger hunt through Portland that’s part of a national effort to have fun on bikes and gather food donations for those who could use them this holiday.

The event originated in New York City a couple of decades ago. In Portland, the ride has been organized in recent years by Norman Patry of Summer Feet Cycling. All food donations will go to the Westbrook Food Pantry. 

The ride begins at Portland Gear Hub, where you’ll get a shopping list and a list of stores where you’ll buy the items. All are in Portland and South Portland, and you’ll get to decide for yourself which route to take. You’re welcome to participate as a team or on your own, and you can sprint the whole way to return back to the Gear Hub first or be leisurely about it and ride at whatever pace you’d like. 

Jean Sideris and Rebecca Boulos
Jean Sideris and Rebecca Boulos find a way to bungee turkeys to their bikes during Cranksgiving 2017. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

There’s no cost to register for the event, just the money you’ll spend buying the food. And you’re welcome to buy them all, buy extra, or buy what your budget will allow. Every donation is appreciated. 

Once you’ve hit the stores and your backpack or bike basket is loaded with stuffing mix and cans of pumpkin, you’ll return to Portland Gear Hub to drop off your donations. Patry will make sure those donations get to the food pantry. In the meantime, there will be some prizes, and all participants are welcome to head over to nearby Rising Tide Brewing on Fox Street to celebrate and socialize. 

Portland’s Cranksgiving is a fairly informal affair with a focus on having a good time. There’s no need to register in advance, just show up with your bicycle. Helmets are encouraged, of course, as is riding safely and abiding by the rules of the road. Be sure to bring a backpack or another way to carry the food you purchase. 

Can you also ride your bike dressed as a turkey or a pile of mashed potatoes? Yes, yes you can. And you should.

Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.

Cranksgiving food
Thanksgiving food collected during Cranksgiving 2017 for the Westbrook Food Pantry. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Cranksgiving happens at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, starting at Portland Gear Hub, 155 Washington Ave., Portland. Free to participate; pay for the food you purchase. FMI: Cranksgiving Portland Maine on Facebook.

Thanksgiving runs, walks

If you’d prefer to run or walk to raise food and dollar donations this Thanksgiving, check out one of these local races: 

Maine Track Club Turkey Trot — 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, Cape Elizabeth High School, 345 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth; $30. FMI: https://bit.ly/3BJcT7t.

The Maine Track Club Turkey Trot has been running (pun intended) more than 50 years. The 5K walk/run starts at 9 a.m. There is also a kids’ fun run at 8 a.m. and a virtual option. This race has raised tens of thousands of dollars – and collected thousands of pounds of food – for Wayside Food Programs. All runners and volunteers must provide evidence of vaccination, a booster shot, or negative COVID-19 test results within three days of the race. 

Strut Your Stuffin’ — 9 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 21, New Gloucester Fairgrounds, New Gloucester; $30 run or walk. FMI: https://bit.ly/3GQgXXc.

Start your run or walk on the New Gloucester Fairgrounds the week before Thanksgiving, and end there, too. There’s also a virtual option ($15). This event benefits New Gloucester Recreation scholarship programs. Overall male and female winners will receive a gift basket filled with all the fixins for a Thanksgiving dinner, and all in-person runners and walkers will receive a race medal.

Portland Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler — 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 25. Starts at Portland High School, 284 Cumberland Ave., Portland; $25 in advance, $30 race day. FMI: https://bit.ly/3k22CgE.

We all have our Thanksgiving traditions (dinner at aunt Betsy’s, binge-eating mashed potatoes, and helping dad untangle the Christmas lights, for example). The Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler through downtown Portland is another of those traditions. Bring nonperishable food to benefit Project FEED. Proceeds benefit Partners for World Health, Portland Trails, the St. Patrick’s Secondary School in Iten, Kenya, and other nonprofits.

The Savage Family Turkey Trot 5K — 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, Bug Light, South Portland; $25. FMI: https://bit.ly/3mJJF3Y

“You can run it, walk it, bike it, push the kids in strollers, bring your leashed furry friend or you can do it dressed like a turkey!” The run is in honor of Nathan Savage, who died in 2016 while training for his first Ironman. One of his dreams was to help kids get off the couch, get outside, and be active and healthy. This 5K – and the funds raised to support local programming for kids – are perfect ways to honor that dream. This year, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the South Portland Skate Park.

— Shannon Bryan