Volume XVII | Issue 2 | Fall 2017
Food brings people together. Photo: Nick McComber

Potlucks build community

— for six decades

On the second Sunday of this month, neighbors in Southern Oregon’s Upper Cow Creek area know what they will be doing for dinner. It’s the same thing their parents and, in some cases, their grandparents did — get together at the community center for a potluck.

It’s a tradition that has been going on for at least 60 years through multiple generations of residents living in a remote 10-mile stretch of Upper Cow Creek, near Azalea. “Kids leave, families come and go, but the community-center potlucks have always been the heart and soul of our little area,” says Cow Creek resident Amanda Close. 

“The gatherings allow newcomers to meet more established folks, to understand the culture of the community, and to share resources and skills,” says Joe Yetter, who considers himself a relative newcomer with just 10 years in the area.

On potluck days, participants and guests typically bring their favorite home-cooked meals. They generally follow an informal rule: no discussion about politics, religion, and other potentially divisive issues. “People in our community range from arch conservatives to liberals, and include a wide range of lifestyles and gender preference,” Yetter says. “We all get along exceedingly well.”

A master call list of about 100 names — nearly everyone in the area — is periodically used for everything from requests for help cleaning out the attic of the community center to alerting residents of wildfires in the area. 

“It’s amazing — you just call people, and they magically show up,” Close says, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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