GARDINER — The community’s annual latke party to celebrate Hanukkah found a new location this year at Dennis’ Pizza, alongside the Bridge Street restaurant’s usual crowd of customers ordering sandwiches and pizzas.

“When my kids were even younger than they are, I wanted something where I live for my children to celebrate,” said Susan Montell, a Gardiner resident who has organized the annual celebration for the last six years. “I didn’t want to have to go to Portland or Bangor. I wanted something right here in the wonderful little city we live in and have latkes and celebrate with our friends and neighbors and gentiles. As you can see, there are more gentiles than Jews here. That’s what’s it’s all about.”

Many of the roughly two dozen people eating latkes at the start of the event Sunday said they aren’t Jewish but went to see friends and be part of the community.

Montell has held the annual Hanukkah celebration at different Gardiner restaurants over the last several years. Last year, Alex Parker’s Steakhouse, which closed in November, hosted and made the potato pancakes.

“It allows people to take time out,” she said, “to take time out to really see the people you wouldn’t see otherwise.”

Montell said she was thrilled that the new owners of Dennis’ Pizza, Andy and Kara Waller, agreed to host the event this year. Andy Waller, who bought the restaurant last year with his wife, said they’re open to new things, and people seem to be receptive to the latke celebration.

Latkes are a traditional food eaten to celebrate Hanukkah because of the hot oil in which the potato pancakes are cooked. It symbolizes the Hanukkah story of oil that was supposed to provide only a day of light during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but burned for eight days.

For Mike Hudson, Stacy Ladner and their two young daughters, the Gardiner latke celebration has become an annual tradition. Hudson, 60, of Gardiner, said they’ve gone to four or five of the latke parties even though they’re not Jewish.

“I think its just to celebrate the different traditions,” he said.

Gardiner resident Dawn Thistle, who was eating latkes with her mother, Marguerite Ridgway, said their family has a tradition of making latkes for breakfast on Christmas, so the latke party sounded fun.

“It’s nice to have an opportunity for awareness, understanding” of different traditions, said Thistle, 42.

Ridgway, 60, of Chelsea, said it’s also a good opportunity to support the community, see old friends and have breakfast together.

“And tradition,” Ridgway said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

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Twitter: @paul_koenig