Preserving a New England Tradition: The Church Fair.

22/08/10 6:51 AM

It was the slow road that hooked me.

Yesterday, traffic of Cape Cod was exceptionally busy. Summer Saturdays on Cape Cod are known as “turn over days.” People renting beach houses, campers camping, and people staying at guest houses for one or two weeks at a time most often  begin their vacation/holiday on Saturday.

I am sitting in heavy traffic on Highway 6 and begin to think, “I know a back road.” Thoughts turn to Robert Frost. I found a road less traveled and was all the better for choosing this winding pathway.

Driving on rural Route 6A in Truro, Massachusetts, I passed a sign noting “CHURCH FAIR TODAY.”

First, I  bypass the sign.  Then I think,  apply brakes,  pull over, put my car into reverse, and do a “U-ee.” (For those unfamiliar with Boston driving terms, a ‘U-ee’ is an illegal  U-turn in the middle of the road.)  I  turn  back.

Once parked, I check out items across from the church in a shed. In New England, we call donated items at church sales “white elephants.” Why? I do not know. Maybe a reader can post to my blog and explain.  Second, I stroll across the street to the community room in the basement of this quintessential New England rural church. Something artistically hits my eye. A member of this  small Christian community strung paper plates with yarn above the Baked Good table. The names of the food offerings were carefully printed  using a bold magic marker. This creative signage captivated my interest–yet it was pear jam on the table that hooked me like a striped bass.

Who knows how  to make homemade jam in the year 2010? Our lives have become so busy we often forget to pass skills down from one generation to another–such as jam making. My mother and her grandmother all made homemade jam. Do I know how to make jam? No. Do I try? No.  Ask an average person where jam comes from? I am most certain they would reply, “The supermarket.”

Needless to say, I asked permission to photograph the Baked Good table and the kind ladies from the church who volunteered their time at this church fair. I added these photographic images into my personal collection. Again, I  document my daily life. I call it “Ben’s Nouns: Persons, Animals, Places, and Things.”

The  jam table had meaning. So too did the sight advertising an old fashion church fair. I stuck up a delightful conversation with the pastor. She informed me the proceeds of the sale assist in keeping this small rural New England church afloat in though economic times. Yet, more important, she told me that the money raised by her church members often goes back into the local Cape Cod community for outreach programs that serve people in need.

So take the road less traveled. Hit the brakes and do a U-ee’s for things you pass–then have a second thoughts. Return.

I am pleased I did. I was able to document with my ever-present “street camera” a New England church fair, engage in a delightful conversation with a minister, chat with church fair volunteer  tending the Baked Good table, view and photograph creative signage that caught my artistic eye, and buy homemade pear jam—–something few make in their kitchen today.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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