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Beachfront dining

Poipu — A holiday, sure, but Thanksgiving is still busy on Kauai.

And at Brennecke’s beach on Thursday, crowds flocked to the South Shore waterfront, meaning lifeguards couldn’t kick off the slippers and take the day off.

“It’s busy,” said Justin Tabalno, a lifeguard for eight years on Kauai working on the holiday. “We get a lot of parties in the pavilions, especially when it’s sunny out.”

Which it was Thursday. Which meant that it was a workday as usual.

But everyone needs to eat, right?

Thankfully, there was Marisa McSweeny and her family, who delivered pans of Thanksgiving treats to the lifeguards and firefighters on the island’s south side. For a decade now, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa has donated mountain-sized dinners to the rescue workers who still have to punch the clock on the last Thursday of November.

“They’re the people who help us all year long,” Marisa said, as she and her son, Lucas, and daughter Olivia, delivered the food to the guards at the tower. “They have to be away from their families helping all the people and the tourists so it’s nice to bring it down.”

Turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the fixings, you bet. The pans of food were enough to feed an army of lifesavers, let alone a few lifeguards.

“We’ll eat it,” Tabalno said after the smorgasboard was delivered. “And give some away.”

“Thank you,” lifeguard Jerald Hurd said, after he took a pan of turkey. “We appreciate it.”

The resort started the tradition as a way to give back. This year, though, they changed up their approach. In years past, they used to deliver a whole bird.

But it dawned on them that that wasn’t practical for the lifeguards, who, after all, have to keep their eyes on the water and their attention away from carving. Hence, the pans of shredded meat this year.

“I thought, ‘Well, that doesn’t make much sense,” said Marisa, events director for the resort, on the old approach.

Whole or cut, the lifeguards said they were flattered by the free meal. The Koloa and Kalaheo fire departments also received the meals gratis.

“I really look forward to it every year,” said Olivia, 12, who like her 9-year-old brother, Lucas, is in the junior lifeguard program. Both have their eyes on one day, perhaps, being on the receiving end of the free dinner when their working the beach. “I really want to save people.”

“It was fun,” Lucas added.

As for the free meal, which was delivered around 11 a.m., Tabalno and Hurd said they’d enjoy it, share it with others in the spirit of the holiday, but then get back to work. But is there any truth to staying out of the water at least a half hour after eating?

“Is that a myth or is it true?” Tabalno joked.

“Maybe that’s for the show, ‘Myth Busters,’” Hurd said.

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