JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 400 community members, including city officials and business leaders, gathered on Independent Drive in downtown Jacksonville Thursday night to dine at a table stretching more than 600 feet.
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce hosted the inaugural “Jacksonville’s Longest Table” event, which was an open-air dinner that aimed to connect diverse community groups and create friendships.
“We kept hearing from people across the community that they wanted to do something during these turbulent times – Wasn’t there something we could do that was different, that would be unifying, that would feel good? And we came across this project in another city and thought, this could really work in Jacksonville,” said Audrey Moran, JAX Chamber chair. “What’s more powerful than sitting down with our neighbors, breaking bread and remembering that we’re really all much more alike than we are different.”
Moran said the dinner was an act of unity amid the recent unrest in the River City.
“There’s been a lot of talk about race relations, and this is just a good time to put aside our difference and embrace what’s new and difference about us,” Robyn Lawrence said.
Police detoured traffic while guests enjoyed the family-style meal featured a menu of fried chicken, pulled pork, mashed sweet potatoes and more.
“To get out and meet all these people that I wouldn't normally encounter is really awesome,” said Debbie Buckland, market president for BT&T Bank in Jacksonville.
Moran said she hopes other organizations and businesses look at the event held during the season of giving thanks and continue the trend.
"It’s so encouraging to see hundreds of people from all across our city come together and just get to know each other,” Moran said. “This is a starting point for these important conversations and helps us understand we have more in common than we might think. One thing is certain: We are a better community when we all come together."
Ten area businesses contributed food and beverages for the Longest Table event.