When the clock strikes 1 p.m. on March 2, Mildred Council (better known as Mama Dip) will give the order to begin serving the 11th annual Community Dinner.This event, celebrating Orange County's remarkable cultural diversity through food and the arts, will take place at the McDougle Schools "cafetorium" on Old Fayetteville Road in Carrboro.The main meal will feature food cooked by Mama Dip's Kitchen, The Carolina Inn, Bon's Home Cookin', Bandidos Mexican Cafe, Crawdaddy's Cajun Cafe and Tandoor Indian Restaurant, as well as entrees and desserts prepared by the Chapel Hill Kehillah, the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group (411 West, Squids, 518 West , Spanky's and Mez) Margaret's Cantina, Lantern Restaurant, Il Palio Ristorante, Jade Palace, 35 Chinese, Bonne Soiree` Restaurant, Ruth Sanford and Louise Parrish of Carrboro Farmers Market and many more cooks, restaurants, churches and organizations. Bagpiper Yance Covington will welcome the more than 600 people who will sit down to eat together, many of them seated next to people who had been strangers until that moment. There will be dishes for vegetarians and diabetics and this year more food will be "locally sourced."With regard to the latter, the Dinner Committee has been working closely with Orange County's Economic Development Commission.As the food line begins to get shorter, the entertainment will begin. The TROSA Band will play, along with entertainers including the Orange County Jammers Senior Cheerleading Group, Skeedaddle (a new string 20th century band), the Suzuki Academy of North Carolina, the Peruvian-American Association of North Carolina Dance Group and the Carrboro High School Jazz Band. Ron Stutts of WCHL-AM will serve as master of ceremonies.The Community Dinner is an inclusive occasion. Its purpose is to celebrate our respective cultural bounties and differences and to demonstrate our mutual respect for one another. Each year the Community Dinner Committee, made up of representatives from local groups, churches, organizations and businesses, carefully considers how each dinner should reflect Orange County's various groups and cultures through food and entertainment. For example, the choice of the Orange County Jammers Senior Cheerleading Group this year not only pays tribute to a squad that won the Bronze medal at the State's Senior Games, it also reflects the Dinner Committee's quest to promote fitness in the community. Meanwhile, the inclusion of TROSA (The Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse) in the program highlights the work of that organization in transforming lives through its two-year program.The Community Dinner is a multifaceted happening with many parts and players. Vital to the success of the 10 Community Dinners produced thus far has been the belief within our community that Orange County's cultural diversity is worth celebrating. Restaurants have pledged food. Towns, businesses and organizations have underwritten tickets for those unable to afford the event. And groups have volunteered people to work on the serving line, cut cakes, park cars and assist the disabled. People from throughout Orange County -- and beyond -- have come to the event by the hundreds, often finding long lost friends and neighbors on arrival. The dinner has been responsible for marriages. It has been filmed and written about -- most recently in the February edition of Our State magazine, where an article on Carrboro includes a section on the Community Dinner. It has been honored with state awards and emulated in other parts of the country. (Taking the Community Dinner as a model and advised by members of the Orange County committee, Durham will hold its own Community Dinner on April 13 at 1 p.m. in the Durham Armory. You are all invited to attend!)Furthermore, those lines in the sand that routinely separate the UNC campus from the Town of Chapel Hill and that town from the Town of Carrboro and both towns from the rest of Orange County are obliterated at this event. Integral to the success of the dinner has been the dedication and support of its committee, its fiscal agents -- first The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill and now the Orange County Department of Human Rights and Relations, The Carrboro Branch Library, The Cultural Arts Group and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system-- and of course, Mama Dip, who has cooked the main course for all 10 dinners and who has consistently advocated that the event be as inclusive as possible. In acknowledgement of her service to the Community Dinner, Council was given the N.C. Restaurant Association's Neighbor Award for 2004. Advanced purchase of tickets is necessary. Tickets are on sale at many venues. The cost is $8 for adults and $3 for children aged 10 and under. For information go to the Web site at http://communitydinner.org or call the Carrboro Branch Library at 969-3006. To volunteer, make a food pledge or contribute a monetary donation for needy families, contact Nerys Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org. And to avoid disappointment, buy your tickets early -- every year the dinner sells out.