Local bar owner hosts community Christmas dinner, filling a holiday void

Big Dummy's Bar steps up for the community by hosting a free Christmas dinner

Jason Bates, owner of Big Dummy's Bar, dishes up some plates of food on Friday during the Christmas dinner that he hosted at his bar in downtown Mitchell. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Jason Bates wasn’t going to let anyone in the Mitchell community and surrounding area be without a place to celebrate Christmas this year.

On Christmas Day, Bates opened his local bar to the community and had a feast of food waiting for all those who came to Big Dummy’s Christmas Dinner. While Bates had to sacrifice some of his own time on Christmas to prepare the food and set up the dinner at his bar in downtown Mitchell, he said it was well worth it in the end.

“There are a lot of people that don’t have anywhere to go on Christmas, and that can be really hard on anyone,” Bates said. “It’s all about giving back to the community, and it means a lot for me to be able to do that on Christmas. I’ve had a good year here, so this is my way of giving back to this great community.”

With the cancellation of this year’s Community Christmas Dinner that’s traditionally hosted at the Mitchell Masonic Lodge, Big Dummy’s Bar was the lone dinner that was open to the public and free of charge.

Bates’ mother and wife both volunteered much of their day to cook the wide variety of food that was served at the Christmas dinner, which included pork loin, green bean casserole, pies and deviled eggs.


Considering the economic hardships that many have been through this year amid the pandemic, Bates’ Christmas dinner was free of charge.

“Everyone has been through a lot this year, and I wanted to make sure people could have a place to go without the worry of being able to afford a Christmas dinner,” Bates said.

After Bates announced he was hosting the free Christmas dinner at his bar, several more local businesses jumped on board and joined in the spirit of giving. The Gunkel family, who owns Second and Lawler candy and toy store in Mitchell, donated a table full of pies, while Norm and Marks barber shop and Jeanne Hauser donated additional food items. To spread a little more Christmas cheer, Break Time Portables donated a $120 bar tab for the event.

Eric Franey, owner of Norm and Marks, was proud to see another downtown business going above and beyond to provide community members with a full course meal and a place to go on Christmas Day.

“The Bates have a huge heart and think about those who might not have a place to go on the holidays. I wanted to help him with this in any way I could because this is the type of stuff that has a big impact on someone’s life during the holidays,” Franey said.

While Bates hosted similar Christmas events, he said Friday’s dinner saw more support from other local businesses compared to previous years. For Bates, seeing the support for the event showed the community of Mitchell still believes in helping their neighbors when in need.

“It’s awesome to see other local businesses come together for this, and that is what makes Mitchell a great community,” Bates said.


Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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