It started more than 50 years ago.
The women’s fellowship at Bethany Church of the Brethren would, once a year, take orders for various types of cookies from factories, businesses, friends and family. A day or two would be spent baking dozens and dozens of various types of cookies.
This simple beginning has blossomed into a day-long fall festival, with members of the church spending countless hours preparing the second Saturday of October. The 36th annual Fall Festival at the church, on U.S. 6 east of SR 15, will be Saturday.
Many have learned through the years to arrive before the doors open to be among the first to see the old sanctuary filled with items, and to get the best choices.
Preparations have been going on for almost a year.
The quilt has been finished as have the numerous craft items and other baked goods for the bazaar and auction. Noodles are made and bagged, the apple butter made and canned. The mixing and baking of eight different types of cookies started Tuesday afternoon and continued Wednesday.
The hogs will be put on to roast early Saturday morning and around 4 a.m. members will arrive to kneed and bake bread and rolls, fry the donuts and fruit pies all before the 9 a.m. opening of the bazaar.
Every member of the church, from young to old, generation to generation, participates in various ways in this annual event. For many, festival day begins before dawn and does not end until late Saturday evening.
Many of the ingredients for the baked goods and food for the dinner are donated including the hogs to roast or made by church members.
To give an idea of the magnitude here are just a few facts of what is made each year: 82 pounds of wide and narrow noddles made and bagged in one-half pounds and 39 gallons of apple butter canned in quarts, pints and half-pints. There will be 51 dozen peanut butter cookies, 30 dozen chocolate chip cookies; 49 dozen peanut butter blossom cookies, 57 dozen monster cookies, 41 dozen Amish cookies, 32 package of pumpkin whoopee pies, 72 package of chocolate whoopee pies and 31 dozen frosted ginger cookies made. Early Saturday morning there will be 175 loaves of bread and 50 dozen rolls (pan rolls, iced cinnamon, caramel, orange marmalade, cinnamon with nuts) made.
The three hogs roasted will feed more than 300 people with the leftovers auctioned in the evening.
There are numerous other items sold at the bazaar, made or donated by Sunday school classes of all ages and individuals, such as pies, cheesecakes, cheese balls, snack mixes, jars of dry ingredients for cookies, soups, breads and more.
The proceeds go to outreach programs and various organizations in Elkhart and Kosciusko counties, Camp Mack and projects and missions within the church.
Last year the net proceeds were $11,595.
Everyone enjoys the big day forgetting themselves and giving of themselves for a greater cause. Church members work hard, sweat and laugh and have a great time together, knowing the time and effort reaches people and places, blesses lives and people in ways unknown.
They look forward to the planning, the preparations, the work nights and days.
The song, “We will work with each other, we will work side by side … And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love …” fits this annual event.
The first fall festival was Sept. 30, 1978, several years after a member of the church suggested an annual event after so much fun was had fixing food, eating together and working together when reroofing the original church building, still standing and where the festival is held each year.
That first year there were 29½ pounds of noodles sold, 23½ dozen whoopee pies, 410 Amish cookies, 25½ dozen frosted ginger and 34 dozen monster cookies made. There were only 91 loaves of bread, 40 dozen of rolls and 40½ gallons of apple butter. There was a supper, but no quilt and no auction.
From the very first, at least half of the festival income has been sent to missions. It was in 1982 the second Saturday of October became the standing date.
This Year’s Event
The bazaar, featuring homemade noodles, bread, rolls, baked goods, craft items and much more, including apple butter, will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. An auction of various items including a quilt made by Bethany ladies will start at 7 p.m.
For those coming early for the bazaar, homemade rolls, an Amish scramble and coffee will be available for a donation. For those coming during the lunch time a light lunch will also be available for a donation.
During the bazaar and prior to the auction a pork dinner will be served from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The cost is $8 for adults, $4 for children 12 and under. The menu includes roasted pork, various salads and desserts with homemade bread and apple butter on the tables and beverages. For those not able to come in and eat, a drive through carry out will be available from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at a cost of $6.
The carry-out includes pork, homemade bread, chips and cookie.