By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star
While many people traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday or hosted family feasts at home, some had to work.
Others opted for a growing trend — eating out rather than cooking a large meal at home.
The National Restaurant Association estimates some 14 million Americans visited a restaurant for their Thanksgiving meal, with an additional 16 million ordering restaurant takeout food.
Meridian resident Allison Newell and her family members were among a large crowd lined up outside the Cracker Barrel shortly before noon Thursday.
Newell used to cook the traditional Thanksgiving fare at home, but likes the convenience of eating out. She didn't have to spend all of her time in the kitchen cooking beforehand and cleaning up afterwards.
"We have more time to visit," Newell said.
Gulfport resident Charlie Smith was waiting at the restaurant for the arrival of his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, who live in Meridian.
Smith, who was born in Meridian but left in 1941 to join the Navy, missed many Thanksgiving meals at home while stationed aboard a destroyer as a torpedo-man.
Smith likes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but was looking forward to visiting with his family.
"I like eating out, but there are no leftovers the next day," Smith said. "That's the best part."
Emergency rooms, law enforcement offices and fire stations in Meridian and Lauderdale County were also manned Thanksgiving Day.
At Meridian Fire and Rescue's central fire station on 14th Street, firefighters sat down shortly after 1 p.m. for a meal that included ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and desserts.
"We just make the best of the day," Capt. Joey Hand said.
So far the day had been fairly quiet. Hand said he has worked some Thanksgivings where little happened and others where fire crews were running all day.
"It can go either way," Hand said.