Anna Louise Bates, Church Historian
It’s November, and the excitement of election day is upon us. Members of the New Paltz UMC Community have fond memories of this time until COVID-19 disrupted our church’s routine. One of our best memories is that of the Black Diamond Dinner, which had, since the 1990s, been a fabulous affair scheduled on the second Tuesday of November. At the end of their busy day, New Paltz voters could come to our church for a satisfying roast beef dinner. Like other community dinners hosted by the church, members, their families, and people from New Paltz and its surrounding areas came together to share food and fellowship.
The dinner was called Black Diamond because of its purpose in 1931 when the church depended upon coal heat. The dinner was held as a fundraising effort to buy coal for the furnace. Over the years, the dates of the dinners and the menu changed. A flier from 1946 advertises: “Fifteenth annual Black Diamond Dinner. Tickets are $1.75, to be held on Wednesday, October 30… [F]or a grand turkey supper and all that goes with it.”
The October 16, 1933, Kingston Daily Freeman included this ad for the dinner:
“The menu of the Black Diamond Supper to be served by the men of the Methodist Church Thursday, October 19, is Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, cabbage salad, apple sauce, rolls, brown bread, coffee, and apple pie a la mode. Supper will be served at 5:30 and 7 o’clock.”
Interestingly, it appears that only the church’s men participated in the dinner preparation that year.
So popular was the dinner that in 1993 Pastor Roland French commented that the Black Diamond Dinner was “THE dinner of the year in New Paltz. The 1993 church notes also indicate that Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were added to the church calendar, further extending the church and its fellowship to the New Paltz community.
The Black Diamond Dinner continued to be a much-anticipated event in New Paltz until COVID-19 forced its discontinuation in 2020. Plans are now underway to reopen the church in various ways. Face-to-face services have resumed, and we had a successful outdoor community dinner in September 2022. Will the Black Diamond Dinners resume? No one knows. The church is finding ways to reconnect with the community. We know that food has always been a large part of that connection. We all hope the community dinners will return regularly, during the election or some other time during the year.