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Harvest Suppers don't just 'happen'

Submitted by
Jack Elliott

They are a tradition. Harvest suppers, fall dinners, church suppers, they happen every year across most rural and small town communities. But they don’t just ‘happen’.
They happen because of the dedicated volunteer efforts of an army of folks concerned for the welfare of their local communities, their churches, organizations, and projects that are the lifeblood of our home towns. Recently The Rainy River Health Care Committee hosted their Harvest Supper in support of the Locum Rental House Project.
First on the list is the venue. You need a building that will hold the expected crowd in a safe pleasant facility with easy access, which is becoming increasingly important with mobility issues facing many of our seniors. The Evangelical Covenant Church stepped forward offering their hall in their new building in Rainy River, complete with a huge kitchen and the latest audio/visual equipment.
Next are the volunteers. It takes organization and many hands. Ever notice that no matter the event or organization, pretty much the same faces are the first to step forward. And they get the job done. Tickets, posters, napkins, table cloths, table decorations, cream, sugar, coffee, tea, juice, take-out orders, dish washers, potato peelers, floor sweepers, cooks, dessert planners, donation solicitations, garbage bags… and the list goes on and on, with even the smallest item worried over and contingencies in place to bring the event off without a hitch.
It’s a flurry of activity leading up to the day of the event, and then a virtual storm the day of. By early afternoon stoves are covered with boiling pots. Salads are mixed up by the bushel full. Trays of desserts are stacked, ready for serving. Tables and chairs are set up. Later hot dishes of meats and casseroles arrive from kitchens across the community. By an hour before sit down, the hall is engulfed with aromas that drive your appetite cravings absolutely wild.
And then the pieces de resistance roll in. All that exquisite culinary art destined for the dessert auction. Everything from Tina’s legendary Cinnamon Rolls to Vicky’s Chocolate Praline Cheesecake.
The crowd starts to trickle in and by a half hour before dining, the hall is packed and a couple extra tables are hurriedly set up to handle the overflow. At six on the dot, the MC opens the show, the Mayor welcomes everyone, and a hush, except for the rumbling stomachs, settles over the crowd as the pastor asks the blessing.
Then the MC explains the dining order, and begins drawing the numbers explaining he is open to bribes should anyone wish to move up in the cue. Individual table cheers burst out as their numbers are called, along with groans from their neighbouring tables. But the process runs smoothly as the Red Haters ladle out the bounty from the pans and pots streaming out of the kitchen. The cooks fret about having enough- they’ve never run out yet.
Within a half hour everyone is served and the coffee stations and dessert tables see a steady stream of customers. The servers and kitchen staff grab a plate for themselves and settle down for an exhausted but well deserved meal.
By seven the plates are clean and many still linger over coffee, dessert, and conversation, then the MC calls for attention again. The food prep workers and volunteers are acknowledged and a little commercial explanation about the purpose of this Harvest Supper is delivered.
Then the Dessert Auction starts. It is for charity and a tax receipt will be issued to all explains the auctioneer as he holds up the first pie and encourages all to loosen up their pocket books.
“Who’ll give me 20. Twenty dollars” the patter begins.
I open the bid at $20
“Now 30. Do I hear 30” he continues?
Then 30 comes and the flood gates open.
“30, and 40, and 50. 75? Yes! And 100, and 125. Do I hear 130, 130, 130. Sold!”
The trend is set for the rest of the auction as rivals, friends, neighbours, spouses and grandchildren joust for bidding supremacy amongst peals of laughter, bidding each other up with a prize cake bought by Pat for $430.
With the conclusion of the auction the crowd departs while that self same army of volunteers begins tearing down the tables, cleaning up the kitchen and taking out the trash. The cooks who had been fretting about having enough food are now fretting about what to do with all the leftovers as they parcel it up and dole out the stacks of it pleading with guests to please take some. The ‘free will’ offering bowl is overflowing in short order.
An hour after finish the hall is dark and their heads spinning the organizers have stumbled off home still trying to fathom the results. Over $6,500 raised because community members were willing to put their shoulders to the wheel.
But it did not just ‘happen’. It took lots of effort. Anything worthwhile always does.