“Are we true Mennonites if we don’t carry our cider around all day?”
That’s what Mennonite and Goshen College freshman Harrison Gingrich said to follow Mennonite Florence Regier as he debated whether to run out to his car to stash his recently purchased jug at the Mennonite Festival for World Relief Saturday at the Linn County Expo Center.
Regier, down from Salem, just laughed, and suggested to the younger Gingrich that he stash the stuff.
“It’s a community thing,” Regier said, when pressed about the significance of cider among Mennonites. “They announce it at the churches that they need apples and we’ll all get together to make batches.”
Gingrich said the significance is a matter of practicality.
“Mennonites are frugal,” he said with a broad smile. “We use what we have on hand.”
To be sure, the cider is the main attraction at the the annual festival, one of 44 held throughout the United States and Canada that raise an annual average of around $4 million. Last year’s Oregon event brought in $130,000.
As people lined up, cash in hand, to get their jug or two of cider, Gale Gingrich from Salem kept a steady supply coming, in wagon-loads of pints, half gallons and gallons. According to Gingrich (who bothered to look it up), there were 125 pints, 175 half gallons and 461 gallons of Mennonite cider for sale at the festival, made from nine 4-by-4-by-3-foot bins full of apples. A steady stream of patrons wielding jugs of the cider filed out of the hall.
“It’s a staple!” said Kayla Jantzen, down from Portland for the event.
“Our cider doesn’t even last a day,” one kid was overheard to say as he stood in the long line.
Another major fundraising catalyst are the three auctions. There’s a children’s auction, a silent auction and a very large, classic auction. The funds ultimately go to augment ongoing relief projects across the globe.
While festival-goers browsed the yarn, crafts, used books, and food, a five-piece bluegrass group, Jericho Road and the Bethel Mountain Band, filled the hall with sounds from a ring of straw bales. They had a stand-up bass, two guitars, two mandolins and a banjo. Meanwhile, kids navigated a straw bale maze and played other games, while Regier and her friend, Sheila Kauffman from Hubbard, talked about getting a Whoopie Pie.
“I have no idea,” Regier said. And then Kauffman leaned in and offered what sounded like a closely held secret.
“It’s like a cookie that you put a filling in, only they’re big,” she said, almost under her breath. “The cookie is cake-like, and the filling is very sweet.”
Cider, Whoopie pies, quilts and music. All good trade for world relief.