CLARKS SUMMIT — With its food stands, games, live music, raffles and other family activities, Our Lady of the Snows and Church of Saint Benedict’s Annual Country Bazaar is all about having a good time.
But it doesn’t end there.
According to co-chair Dorothy Lynett, another main objective of the event is unity.
“More than anything, it brings the parish community together,” she said.
This year’s bazaar is scheduled for 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 6 and 7, and 5 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. It is held on the grounds of the Church of Saint Benedict, 1849 Newton Ransom Blvd.
Lynett said it takes several hundred volunteers to make the event happen, one of whom is Deb Sherman. Sherman, with the help of a team of about 20 people, keeps the food flowing from the kitchen throughout the three-day event — no small task.
Although guests won’t begin to arrive until Thursday evening, the kitchen crew shows up at the nearby Newton Rec Center on Monday to start chopping vegetables, making sauces and preparing meats. Then, when the bazaar opens Thursday evening, those volunteers continue cooking and food is transported by pickup trucks to the church parking lot where more volunteers await with golf carts to tote it to the food stands.
Sherman said her mother, Bonnie Sherman, was in charge of the kitchen for many years, before her health no longer allowed it. She still contributes her time, however, coordinating volunteers and calling them with reminders to help in the kitchen. And her recipes are still used by her daughter.
Bonnie Sherman spoke in a positive manor about the atmosphere of the bazaar kitchen.
“The ladies who come have been coming for years and years,” she said, adding they are “wonderful.”
Another aspect of the bazaar which requires many volunteers — and generosity — is the themed basket raffle. Michele Crowley has been overseeing this end of things since the event’s inception more than 20 years ago and said for her, it is like a family reunion.
Between 80 and 100 baskets are donated by the parish community each year and no two are alike.
“They completely run the gamut,” she said. “We have food baskets, restaurant gift certificates, a lot of creative ones, too. I always like to see what comes in.”
One year, she said, someone donated an entire collection of “Harry Potter” books. Another year, they received some antiques. One popular “basket,” which was included several years, was a cooler filled with picnic items.
“A lot of people who donate every year come up with something bigger and better each year,” Crowley said.
The basket raffle is open each of the three evenings with winners drawn starting Sunday and continuing into Monday. Then comes the part that, according to Crowley, is just as fun as filling the baskets: calling the winners.
For the children in attendance, games and prizes highlight the event.
Paul Keeler, who organizes that portion of the bazaar, said there are about a dozen games ranging from an alien shoot to sand treasures to bowling. A bounce house will also be set up on the grounds and new this year is a face-painting booth. Children can also participate in a scavenger hunt each evening, searching for various religious-based artwork on the church grounds.
Members of the parish youth group help run the games, giving them a sense of responsibility and ownership.
“It’s a good way for the youth in our parish to get involved in the parish and the community,” Keeler said.
Adding to the already celebratory atmosphere of the bazaar is live music, organized by Steve Gember.
It will feature, for the second consecutive year, a Battle of the Bands tournament on Thursday with three Abington Area bands, each comprised of high school students. Friday’s festivities will be accompanied by the Mace in Dickson Band and event-goers will experience music by The Quietmen on Saturday.
Gember believes the live music to be an added bonus to the bazaar.
“Everybody just loves having the music around,” he said. “They come for the fun of it and they enjoy hearing the music.”
More than 40 booths, such as a bargain barn, books, plants, bingo, vintage collectibles, a coffee house and more, are set up for the marketplace.
One of the most popular, according to organizer Nancy Parlo, is the homemade baked goods booth. Volunteers fire up their ovens in the days before, preparing cakes, pies, breads, cupcakes, brownies, a vast array of cookies and more. The booth even has bags and boxes, making it is easy to transport a whole pie or cake for the next day.
There is no admission charge for the event and a free shuttle will provide transportation from Red Barn Village parking lot, ongoing throughout each evening.