Fall happens. Just as leaves predictably change colors each year, my family’s autumnal life follows a set pattern. There’s a new-school-year schedule to conquer, harvest-inspired outings to attend and events that of course we’re not going to miss. The Festival for World Relief is one such event.
To quote a bumper sticker, we are challenged to “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Simply put, the festival makes that philosophy a reality, simply.
Why simply? Well, you could say the festival lacks the bells, whistles and technology of modern happenings. You could also hail that as its most endearing quality.
For the little ones, the fun starts in the parking lot: the free golf cart shuttle.
As we enter the large expo building, the sights, sounds and smells welcome us like family. Fresh hay bales serve as decor and seating. Home-baked goods fly off tables until they are replaced with “sold out” signs. “Stores” offer everything from local, homemade cheeses to global, Fair Trade treasures.
On our way to the children’s area and get our scavenger hunt list, we can’t help but join the small crowd that’s gathered around a bluegrass trio. Their sound mingles with the conversations of old friends uniting and new friends meeting.
With the scavenger clues in hand, my organized child says, “We’ll start in the other building by the plants and quilts.”
It’s a good plan unless you’re little and standing right next to a hay maze, a craft table and a number of other tempting activities.
“Just one time through,” the little sister bargains.
I can’t fault her. A few minutes later, I’m making the same promise as we pass by Ten Thousand Villages. Yes, I know the world market will be there all day, but not every item will. I want to see what they have now … and later.
A short breezeway connects the festival’s two sections. Someone kindly holds the door open for us, and we enter the second building. There are rows and rows of silent auction goods, the warp speed ramblings of a real-life auctioneer and … the quilts.
Quilts are our reason for hurrying to the building. Soon, they will be taken down from display and auctioned off. Some people peruse the works of art to get an idea of what they’ll bid for. Those of us who can’t afford to bring one home just admire.
Some are the work of Mennonite Church quilting groups. Some are donations from generous individuals. One is a gift from Amish Country. And though their stitches and patterns are anything but simple, they are a preservation of simpler times.
My daughters move to the plant section to locate a scavenger hunt answer while I finish up my quilt gawking. The answer they find is about water. Or more specifically, it’s a startling statistic about people who lack drinkable water.
My older daughter shows me the number and says, “Can you believe that?” She’s old enough to grasp reality, old enough to appreciate MCC’s efforts to make things better an dold enough to “think globally.”
Back in the main building, we hear an announcement: “Children’s Auction in 10 minutes.”
Stop the presses and the scavenger hunt. To quote my 5-year-old, “My favorite thing is where you vote on toys, and sometimes you get to buy them like last year I got my science set and my cupcake set.”
Kids raise their numbers. Parents help older kids know when to bid and stop younger kids from waving their numbers aimlessly. The auctioneer moves things along at a quick but easy-to-understand pace. Everyone who perseveres leaves with a treasure.
After the auction, we wrap up the scavenger hunt, head back where it started, and my little one gets to pick a small prize.
Then she gets an even greater reward: time in the kid zone. She throws bean bags at a target, makes a bookmark, runs through the hay maze and joins her cousins who are digging in the grain-filled kiddie pool.
“What’s Jo doing?” she asks when she notices that her older sister has moved on.
“She’s filling the school bags.” I continue. “They’re for kids in other parts of that world that don’t have school supplies.”
“Like for kids in Bangladesh and Africa?” she asks. Then, before I can answer, she adds, “I want to do that.”
We choose “the prettiest” hand-sewn bag and start filling it with a specified number of notebooks, pencils and so on.
“Now can we eat lunch?” my middle daughter asks when the clock tells us it’s time.
The food at the festival is worthy of its own column … or maybe a love sonnet. However, lacking the space to do it justice, I will say that it is homemade, delicious and reminiscent of Grandma’s cooking.
We leave with stomachs full of food, bags full of purchases and thoughts full of what really matters. Each fall, we’re thankful for this fun and delicious opportunity to “act locally,” and our next opportunity is Saturday.
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