Saturday, June 21, 2014

Festival Time

But not a fiber festival.  This time it's the Strawberry Festival - the 135th - at the Canadice United Methodist Church.  This is the church I grew up attending.

This is the view from the family plot in the cemetary.  You can just barely see a glimpse of Honeoye Lake over the trees.  You used to be able to see it a lot better but they've grown.  I like that there are cows right next to the cemetary lawn.  Mom and dad were ahead of their time in that they chose to buy a headstone way before they thought they'd need it and have it set on their plot so it would be done.  People weren't exactly scandalized but they were a bit bewildered.  Then in a couple of years someone else followed suit and now there are several headstones already in place, waiting for the day they're needed.  Dad said mom mostly wanted an excuse to go shopping ;-)

My dad used to take great satisfaction (and wry amusement) from standing in the middle of the church and looking out a west window and seeing the house he was born in and then, without moving, looking out an east window and seeing his headstone in the cemetary.  Quite the allegory there. 

The Strawberry Festival is the one church event I always work at.  It doesn't feel like work to feed happy people and see friends you don't see very often. The church used to put on more dinners as fund raisers but they have been dropped as the years went by largely because putting these events on is awfully taxing especially to older members.  There was the roast beef dinner, the pancake supper, spaghetti supper, oyster supper, chicken barbeque and more.  The Strawberry Festival is "family style" meaning you sit and people bring you bowls of food until you're full.  We don't bill it as 'all you can eat' but that's basically what it is.  The menu is sliced ham, potato salad (made from scratch), copper penny carrots (scratch), baked beans (scratch), pickles, rolls, chili sauce (scratch) and coffee or lemonade.  The dessert is strawberry shortcake.  The biscuit is made from scratch and the berries are hulled, chopped and sugared at the church in the morning.  Much of the prep work is done in the church's kitchen in the days prior to the festival, such as baking all the shortcake biscuits.  Potatos are cooked and chopped along with onions and celery in members' homes and brought to the church for assembly into salad.  Other items like the baked beans are done in peoples' homes and brought in the afternoon.

The basement did not exist originally. Dinners used to be served on the third floor and the food was sent up on a dumbwaiter from the kitchen at the back of the church.  The building was hoisted in the early 1950s and a basement dug, foundation laid and then interior finished.  The kitchen was laid out following the recommendations from Cornell Cooperative Extension for ease and efficiency of use.  Ten banquet tables can be set for attendees while the sinks, stoves, cupboards, serving island, etc are off to the side.  A few years ago an anonymous donor paid for the installation of a small elevator so that people in wheelchairs or other mobility problems could get up and down without problems.

The younger folks set and bus the tables, the more seasoned members run the kitchen and handle the food and sit-down jobs are saved for those who most need to be sitting while working.  There is a large bake sale upstairs manned by people who work best off their feet.  When I was a girl I served coffee and lemonade to the tables, mom worked the serving island and dad washed dishes.  His hands were never so clean all year as the evening of the festival after having been in soapy water for six hours.  Besides all the prep work and actual serving of the meals, the whole endeavor has to be cleaned up and put away at the end of the day.   It used to be quite a mark of fortitude to work the festival and then show up at church the next morning.

We served just over 300 people plus packed up about 50 take out meals plus all the workers ate when the serving hours were over.  Ten years ago on the occasion of the 125th festival we had quite a write-up in the newspaper the day before and served over 600 that day!  We've had a lot of 'loaves and fishes' moments but have only really run out of a particular menu item once or twice.

There were some leftovers this year, so I don't have to wonder what I'm making for lunch
tomorrow ;-)


  1. oh dear I love church dinners.....this one...put me on the mailing list for next year
    you are truly blessed to have such a church..and the story about your beautiful
    when I was younger I was always first in line to help....loved those old ladies...which I am becoming very hastily

  2. What a lovely church! There is nothing like a church dinner - nothing. The food is the best, the company even better. How nice that you continue to live in the place where you grew up. I long for those kinds of roots, but it won't happen unless I live to 125! I'll have to look you up - that particular church dinner might be in driving distance!