The welcome sign reads “Gross, Pop. 2,” but one of America’s smallest towns has a lot more heart and holiday spirit than its size suggests.
In its heyday, the tiny town of Gross, Nebraska, was home to more than 600 people. But when railways and highways were built, they skipped right over Gross.
After neighbors moved away and children moved out, just two people, Mary and Mike Finnegan, still call the town home. For 33 years, the couple and their restaurant, The Nebrask Inn, have kept Gross on the map.
But this year, the town grew to 10 times its usual size when the couple, with help from Ancestry.com, organized a Thanksgiving feast to bring their family back together just before the holidays.
The genealogy website’s researchers also scoured historical records to find descendants of the town founders — the Gross family — who were invited to the meal as surprise guests.
Reunions and celebrations are not unusual in Gross, which despite its teeny population has a constant stream of friends and visitors passing through its 80 acres to eat at the Finnegans’ restaurant, famous for Mary’s pan-fried chicken and coffee that costs a nickel. On Mondays, Mary bakes 10 homemade pies, which sell out by Tuesday evening.
“Gross is kind of the heart of the community,” she said. “It’s where everyone meets and has coffee to discuss the problems and the blessings of the day. It’s just a very home-oriented place.”
On the real Turkey Day, however, the town will have no one home at all.
The Finnegans’ son-in-law, a police officer in a nearby Nebraska town, has to work on Thanksgiving, and the couple plans to drive to their daughter’s house so they can celebrate together.