The Lope: But it's April!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

But it's April!

"Thunder snow" and "snowball storm" were two of the terms used to describe the barrage of barely-frozen white stuff that slush-pelted attendees of the annual Mennonite Central Committee Sale (MCC Sale) this past Friday evening, April 13, in Hutchinson, KS.

The wind was strong enough that even opening an umbrella was a challenge. This was a far sight from the conditions under which we attended the sale last year.

The "people movers" - tractors that usually haul covered trailers in which people can ride - were not used at the sale venue, the Kansas State Fairgrounds, Friday night. I speculate that the management may have been concerned about slush on the steps of the trailers.

This Kansas City Chiefs helmet-like umbrella looks cool, but seems impractical for two people.

There is a certain irony to the sunflower symbol on the Sunflower Pavilion under such conditions.

The snowflakes were huge; they reminded me of the fake snow that movie nit-pickers love to point out. I, myself, have mentioned that the snow in Fellowship of the Ring was large enough to look really fake when it landed on an actor. I stand corrected.

Inside the Cottonwood Court, the German Buffet experienced low attendance Friday night due to the storm, but recovered to a degree Saturday.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: some of the best food just isn't photogenic. In the middle of the tray is borscht soup. Clockwise from left is pecan pie, veggies, plum moos, sausage with verenika (cottage cheese dumplings with ham gravy) and bohne beroggi (warm pastry with a sweet paste inside and a thin drizzle outside).

This friendly server is dishing out the gravy for verenika. When she runs low, she'll raise the little flag for a refill.

And there was so much pie!

Ace, disguised as an area farmer, went out in the snow to check out a portable building called the "Borscht Buggy". We never discovered its purpose, but it didn't turn out to be a giant borscht dispenser.

From here we had a view of the thermometer display on the grandstands. We never saw the temperature go below 31 degrees, but the snow came down in such profusion that it stuck on most surfaces, creating a nasty slush.

But people came anyway.

Some appeared to like the snow.

Others simply bowed against it...

..protecting their cargo as best they could.

Personally, I was loving it. It was another one of those times in which nature throws us a treat - like a special effect to enjoy. This is the tower atop the 1915-vintage "Ye Old Mill" water dark ride, my favorite part of the fairgrounds. I regularly have fun with Ye Old Mill as a foreground for weather. It was not, of course, in service today.

I wondered just how slick the fairgrounds slide would be.

After a slushy walk about a block away, I ducked into the Domestic Arts Building.

There, I found these railroad caps for $2 a piece; they went home with me.

Having just finished a trip through the Southwestern US, largely along the BNSF mainline, it was nice to find this cap with a BNSF locomotive embroidered on the side.

In one of the Sunflower Pavilions, all sorts of stuff was sold in the general auction.

Every year I see things of remarkable workmanship, like this bird made of several inlaid woods.

This intricate wheat straw marquette, in the image of the 1887 Warkentin House in Newton, KS, was made by Marie and Martha Voth.

This kicksled was made and donated by Brian Ediger of Newton, KS.

Edigar illustrated the use of his device with this photo of the kicksled in use (albeit not in its natural environment) and an explanation that such sleds are used to transport people and cargo over frozen landscapes in Norway, Sweden and Finland where they often take over the role of a bicycle, easily attaining speeds of ten MPH when pushed by someone wearing shoes made for traction. The operator pushes with one foot while keeping the other on one of the metal runners.

Ace had his picture taken by a situationally-ironic "Let it Snow" sign that was part of a doll display. He didn't hang around long, so as not to be accidentally sold.

This is a 1950 Chevrolet pickup. In the background is a niftily kitschy child's play tee pee.

This model train layout was built by Richard Schmidt of Newton and auctioned for only $100. Read its story here.

Man, had I been there when it was auctioned, I might have bought it. I'd have kept the motorized and lighted sucker rod oil pump...

...and this cool art deco gas station, then re-donated the rest of the layout. I'm not sure they'd go for that, though.

This Lionel Santa Fe locomotive #2343 set brought substantially more - over seven hundred dollars, I heard. According to an MCC press release, the entire general auction brought in $49,244.75.

And again...pie! Yes, pie! Pie was also sold here...pie made by the loving hands of Amish or Mennonite (I can't tell which) women...

...pie made from recipes ancient and honored.

I am reminded of a pie blog that I like. That's right a pie blog kept by one, Johnny Dollar. I've never met the man, but the words offered at the top of his blog read like a secret greeting and counter-greeting for surreptitious pie lovers entering some sort of pastry speak-easy: "pie is good" and "eat pie."

The contrasts available in people-watching were amusing.

After calling it an evening - a mid-April evening - it felt rather odd to have to clean one's car of snow.

Saturday we returned - in much better weather - ate again and checked out the auctions. The quilt auction is the main event of the MCC Sale and brings in dealers form as far as the east coast. Because of my interest in tiki stuff, I noticed this quilt of a Hawaiian design. According to a page on the MCC website, it was quilted by Bethel College Mennonite Mission Quilters, North Newton KS, and sold for $4,200. I was there when it sold, and people cheered at the price it brought.

I was surprised to read in an MCC press release a few days later that the quilt auction actually did very well at $127,324, which was up from last year's total of $98,000

Last year, a few of you expressed interest in seeing more quilts. I would direct you to the quilt gallery of the MCC website. I did shoot a few; this 47" x 84" comforter went for $150.

This nice minty-looking 69" x 76" comforter was made by Lena Doerksen of Dodge City, KS. It sold for $75.

This teddy bear throw was made by Jan Brown of valley Center. It sold for $175. It's too cute...really...I mean that literally.

Back in the Domestic Arts Building, we ran into pysanky egg artist Janet Regier, whom we featured last year. Aside from demonstrating the art herself, she was displaying work by other artists, including this egg Volkswagon by Nebraska artist Grace Adam.

It even has a little muffler.

Horses don't have mufflers. Was that an awkward segue or what? It was raining by this time - Saturday afternoon - but not snowing.

We didn't see as many Amish as usual, but did find this nice buggy as we were leaving. The site of these things, on occasion, is one of the perks of traveling in Central Kansas.


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