Sup with your neighbors at The Longest Table on Sunday

ALPENA — Teens and adults in the community are invited to find out more about their neighbors and interact with people from different walks of life at The Longest Table.

Anyone high-school age or older can gather from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday for a free simple meal on the Pedestrian Bridge behind the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

This free, public event is sponsored by the United Way of Northeast Michigan, the Alpena Downtown Development Authority and Who Is My Neighbor?

“The concept is to get people in our community together at a table, breaking bread, and talking about things in our community that are positive, what we have to offer, and how we can grow,” said Janice Boboltz of Who Is My Neighbor?

The groups are coming together to bring this event to Alpena for the first time.

“We are providing a forum for people to break bread and break down walls with honest community conversations to build a stronger Alpena,” said Staci Chroninger, United Way board president.

Organizers encourage people of diverse backgrounds and all walks and political views to take a seat at the table.

“Sitting down to share a meal on a bridge with a neighbor you do not know is something unique to our town, and we are excited abou the connections it may inspire,” said Anne Gentry, executive director of the DDA.

Participants will be assigned tables so they can meet someone new, and sample questions will be placed at each table to open conversation.

“We’re really hoping to get people from different organizations, backgrounds, different experiences in life, to come together with this,” Gentry said.

Table hosts will be at each table.

“They’re essentially there to make sure that conversation remains respectful, positive, kind of keep it flowing, asking follow-up questions,” Gentry said.

Hosts are community leaders representing different organizations in Alpena. Gentry said two of the hosts are Jackie Krawczak, president and CEO of The Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, and Patrick Heraghty, executive director of the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan.

Gentry said some of the questions will be along these lines: “What’s your role in the community?” “What issues do you see?” “What is your community?” “What’s your neighborhood like?”

“It’s a great way to build comradery among the people that live, work and play here every day,” said Boboltz.

Opening comments will be at 3 p.m., with the meal from Subway shortly after that. The meal will include sub sandwiches, baked beans, watermelon and water.

“There will be a little introduction,” said Leslie Kirchoff of Who Is My Neighbor? “Sharon Koperwas will do a song as people are entering, then there will be a small introduction and explanation of how the process is going to work. Then people will go get their food and sit down and the conversation will begin while they’re eating.”

Organizers hope this event will open more positive community conversations, and inspire people to branch out and find out what connects them rather than focuses on differences.

“I think everybody gets caught up in their own little worlds, and nobody’s having conversations very much anymore,” Boboltz said. “And they’re into social media, that kind of thing, and not talking.”

She said it’s a great opportunity to talk about what Alpena can do to grow and attract more people to come back and live here, or stay here.

If you plan on attending the event, reserve a seat by emailing the Alpena DDA at downtownalpenami@gmail.com or by calling 989-356-6422.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be held at Thunder Bay Theatre, 400 N. 2nd Ave. Check The Longest Table Facebook page for updates.

Lifestyles Editor Darby Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 309, or via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com.