Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fall festivals usher in the season

Antioch UMC fair joins in fun of low-cost community activities this time of year By SUZANNE NORMAND BLACKWOOD • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • September 16, 2008 About 20 years ago, the Antioch United Methodist Church Fall Fair began with just a few booths. "We started out very simple," said event coordinator Mary Jane Hurt. Now, she said, "at least 1,000 people go through our doors," a number about four times as big as the church's congregation. Antioch United Methodist Church will join many other churches, schools and non-profit organizations throughout the country in a tradition that celebrates harvest time, a time to reap the rewards of hard labor. Ann Dale, director of the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, which has its Music and Molasses Festival each October, attributes the strong tradition of fall festivals to several reasons. "Fall is a new season. You've got the crisp air. It's a happy time for school children. They're back in school. Also, added Dale, fall festivals have always been a tradition of farm life. "It's at time when farm families are harvesting crops." This year's Antioch United Methodist Church Fall Fair will be Oct. 4 and will feature a flea market; a bake sale; a craft store; live and silent auctions; and a barbecue luncheon. There will also be a farmers' market with local produce, homemade jams and jellies, and locally produced honey. Children's activities will include a dress-up area, inflatables, pony rides and carnival games. Church fair serves fundraiser Church members start planning for each year's festival immediately after the festival of the previous year, said the Rev. Jay Voorhees, the church's pastor. Much discussion goes into planning the menu and coordinating the flea market, craft store, bake sale and the carnival, he said. Members must also begin contacting local vendors for donations toward the auctions. The event serves as a fundraiser, with the first 10 percent being used as a tithe. After that, "whatever we make, we'll give half of that away," Voorhees said. For the past five years, the church has given more than half of its proceeds to charities outside the church. Last year, it gave more than $10,000 to local agencies. Organizations that have benefited include The Campus for Human Development, Community Care Fellowship, Feed America First, Second Harvest Food Bank and the Bethlehem Center's Camp Dogwood project. There is no charge for admission to the event. Proceeds mostly come from the flea market, bake sale, auctions and food sales, Voorhees said. Auction affected some by economy Voorhees said a slow economy generally does not affect attendance, although it does make it harder to get donations for the auctions. But even so, there is not a particular fundraising goal, he said. The main purpose of the festival is to serve as an outreach opportunity. The festival is publicized citywide, although most who attend live in Southeast Davidson County. "This is a big deal for us," said Voorhees, adding it allows the church to form relationships that otherwise might not exist. Given the church's location, "it's very easy to become insulated from the world around us," he said. "We see this as a way to get involved in the surrounding neighborhood. Our Fall Fair is a means by which we invite our neighbors to come sit awhile and talk." Some of the fair's guests end up joining the church, said Hurt. "(They) like what they see and come back to stay with us," she said. The fair, Voorhees said, "gives us an opportunity to show love to our neighbors in real and tangible ways."

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