CATTARAUGUS - Steve Forster's first ever "Just for the Fun of It, Free Lasagna Dinner" was such a success, he's decided to try it again.
Originally fearful that he and his helpers might be left munching leftovers for the next three weeks, he instead found himself scrambling to feed the 187 people who showed up.
"I planned for 150," he said, "and thought I'd be lucky to get 50."
In fact, when the final three guests arrived late due to car trouble, the cupboard was bare.
This sent Forster scurrying to Brooks Market, where he quickly purchased the makings for a trio of ham sandwich, soup and ice cream suppers.
The enthusiastic turnout was a wonderful surprise to this guy who has always loved cooking and watching others enjoy his food.
"I got to do what I like most," he said. But really, how many people do you know who'd go to all the work of preparing a banquet of free food 'just for the fun' of watching others chow it down?'' Forster asked.
Not that Forster worked alone. Although the Victory Tabernacle and Pastor Cliff Waugh and his flock were not directly involved in the enterprise, "... they took the bull by the horns," as Forster put it.
Out of nowhere, a dedicated kitchen crew appeared, some helping with the preparations and some with the serving. They set up the dining room, and even furnished beverages and cakes.
"And Trading Post South very generously furnished some cakes, too," Forster added.
Tom Chandler, from the Tabernacle congregation, offered a selection of background music.
Later, one of the diners, Joseph F. Borzellere, who just happened to bring along his guitar, entertained the diners by singing and playing numbers requested from the floor.
"There wasn't a song asked for, that he didn't know,'' Waugh said.
"The dinners aren't really church-affiliated," Forster said. "I just prefer a church setting to a fire hall.''
So pleased was he with the ample parking, convenient kitchen and roomy dining hall offered by Victory Tabernacle, that he has asked Waugh for permission to use the facility again for the proposed April dinner.
"Everyone's invited!" Forster said. "But be patient with us, 'cause we're learning as we go. We had a great time last month, so I hope everyone comes back, and we'll do it again."
The "Just for the Fun of It, Free Lasagna Dinner II" will follow the same format as the first, "except I'll be baking a few more pans of lasagna than I did the first time around," Forster said with a satisfied smile.
It will take place at the Victory Tabernacle from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday.