Fun-d Raising Festivals

March 31, 2009

I’m still trying to find a way for our church to raise money. I believe hosting a festival of some sort would have two very positive results. First, it would bring in cash to support our various ministries. Second, it would provide opportunities for many of our members to get more involved. In my book, fellowship is just as important as stewardship.

So, after digging through the Internet, here are some of the festivals I’ve found. While some are tempting to try to recreate, I think we need to be original in whatever we do. These festivals – which are rather ‘off the wall’ – are only meant to get our brainstorming juices flowing.

Some people either have too much time on their hands or are just plain weird. In my search for the perfect fund raising event, I decided to see if Georgia was the only state with festivals devoted to unusual pastimes. It could be argued that we Georgians are simply celebrating our history and culture when we hold the Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville and The Redneck Games in East Dublin.

Every October since 1968, the brewers of white lightning and their hot rod driving deliverymen have come out of the hollows of the north Georgia mountains to showcase their equipment and demonstrate their traditional craftsmanship. I guess it’s no different than the people who show off their expertise at cooking pork rinds and boiling peanuts, or the folks who make dulcimers and cedar shake shingles using nothing but hand tools. If painters and potters have craft fairs, why not bootleggers?

The Redneck Games are a different story. This event – begun in 1996 to coincide with the Atlanta Olympic games – includes events such as the Mud-Pit Belly Flop, the Hubcap Hurl, and the Dumpster Dive. The one event I really don’t care to see is the Bobbing for Pigs Feet. This event is described as similar to bobbing for apples. The main differences are: unlike apples, pig’s feet don’t float (especially when they’re frozen and uncooked), and the water in the “bucket” is shoulder deep. One of the more popular events is the Armpit Serenade. Jeff Foxworthy might thoroughly enjoy this festival, but it doesn’t do much to showcase southern culture. (Or maybe it does too much!)

After learning about the Redneck Games, I had to assure myself that Georgia wasn’t the only state to host such outrageous events. I searched the Internet and quickly discovered a web site that included “America-Bizarro Articles” which listed, by state, more oddball festivals than you could fling a fruitcake at.

Yes. That’s right. Manitou Springs, Colorado is the home of the Great Fruitcake Toss. Held every first week in January since 1995 people come from miles around to hurl the fruitcakes they received for Christmas. (We can only hope that none of the projectiles were manufactured in Georgia.)

An event that could easily be compared to our Redneck Games is the Bean Fest and Great Championship Outhouse Race held each October in Mountain View, Arkansas. I don’t know when this festival began or how it originated, but it is described as follows: “About thirty two-person teams compete in one of the world’s only bean cook-offs. The beans, water, kettles, and fire are provided by the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. Each team must provide its own secret herbs and spices. While the chefs wait to hear the results of the contest, the crowd sucks down over 1,000 pounds of beans and a wagon full of cornbread. Nothing follows beans better than an outhouse. But these outhouses are not for doing the dirty deed. These outhouses are decorated, mounted on wheels, and raced through the middle of town. The added edge of not wanting to be downwind of any racer makes the atmosphere extremely competitive.” I think that’s enough said about this festival.

Moving on to another state, Oatman, Arizona takes advantage of its hot summer days by hosting an Egg Frying Contest. Every July 4th, this town of around 160 people invites folks to enjoy the 106 degree sunny days by frying eggs on the sidewalk. About 1,500 people show up to witness this event. They are joined by any number of egg-loving wild burrows that have a habit of disrupting the cooks. The goal of the contestants is to cook an egg in fifteen minutes or less.

Leave it to the folks in Hacienda Heights, California to come up with the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Annual Show. In 1983 this town decided that lovers of rats and mice wanted to be taken seriously so they created a festival for them. The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association (AFRMA) also holds shows in other towns in California and may have moved this festival to Rialto. Check before you go so you don’t show up in the wrong town.

Closer to home one could drive south to Pensacola, Florida to witness, or participate in, the Interstate Mullet Toss. According to the sponsors of this festival, there’s an art to throwing a mullet – which is not a bad haircut, but a bottom-feeding fish that is considered useless. Every April since 1984, folks have been trying to discover the finer points of this “art”. Each contestant pays an entry fee for the honor of tossing a 1½-pound fish. Since the event is held near the Florida/Alabama border, I suppose the object is to throw the fish from Florida to Alabama. If fish flinging is not your cup of tea, you can always enter, or watch, the Ms. Mullet Bikini Contest, a Wet T-shirt Contest, a Hiney (butt) Contest, play Volleyball, Skeet Shoot, try your hand at a Keg Toss, or listen at your choice of three bandstands. There’s also 17 bar stations. “Nobody goes without a cold beer or drink in their hand.” Is it any wonder?

Coming back to Georgia, we can’t overlook The Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club Convention held each July since 1998 in Covington or other towns throughout the country.  This convention is described as a little unorganized, so make sure you write or email to confirm dates and locations.

One of the most bizarre festivals listed on the web site is the Turkey Testicle Festival held each October in Byron, Illinois. This one started in 1979 (before its big brother, The Testicle Festival featuring Rocky Mountain Oysters in Bozeman, Montana) and sees attendees consume almost 300 pounds of turkey “nuggets” each year.

Speaking of strange things to eat, every September, Marlington, West Virginia hosts the Road kill Cook-Off. If you want to participate, be aware of the official rules. The animal you cook must be one commonly found dead on the side of the road (possum, beaver, raccoon, snake, deer, etc.). However, the animal you use must not actually come from the side of the road. That’s the official rules. The question is, does anybody actually check?

Finally, a festival that certainly has me scratching my head and wondering just how bored can some people get, we head back to West Virginia. The International Water Tasting Contest is held each February (since 1990) in Berkeley Springs. A dozen judges made up of news media from around the country sip international waters in three categories: municipal, non-carbonated bottled and sparkling. Judges test water for clarity, smell, taste and aftertaste. Wow. The excitement must be overwhelming.

There are so many other exciting events, but not enough space to list them all. The ones I’d hate to miss include the International Rotten Sneaker Contest in Vermont, the Belly Dance and Swiss Singing and Yodeling Festivals in Utah (do Mormons belly dance and yodel?), and the Spamarama in Texas. Too bad I don’t have the time to visit them all. But I’m too busy trying to think of a weird festival to start right here in Cumming.

Any suggestions? Remember, our church is a Lutheran church. If you’ve ever listened to the Prairie Home Companion, you know we are a rather conservative group.

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What a Weekend!

March 30, 2009
Our driveway

Our driveway

Things had finally quieted down last evening when, around nine o’clock, our doorbell rang.

We truly live in the woods… about a tenth of a mile off the road; for someone to come to our door at any time of the day is unusual.

It was my daughter stopping by to give us a copy of the Sunday edition of the Forsyth County News. My daughter lives in Fulton County, about thirty-five miles south of us. Obviously there was something in that paper that she wanted us to see. It was photos of her newborn son, Liam.

The paper had run an article on the Northside Forsyth Hospital’s women’s care unit and had highlighted the nurses who care for the newborn infants and their moms. Liam was born a bit premature and spent about a week in the capable hands of those nurses. In fact, he was being held by one of them when he was photographed by the newspaper’s photographer.

Becky – her preferred name is Jennifer, but her middle name is Rebecca and I’ve called her Becky since she was three or four years old – had her entire family with her, but they were all waiting in the car. So, my bride and I put our shoes back on and went out to say hello to our grandchildren, Alexis, Ariana, Landon, and, of course, Liam.

We also greeted our son-in-law, Joel Ruff, who shared some more good news with us. As a detective for the Roswell Police Department, he has been nominated for a leadership award. He should know in the next few weeks if he is the winner. As far as I’m concerned, the nomination alone is a real feather in his cap.

(Now, there’s one of those old sayings that I’ll have to track down some day.)

So, if we review the score card, this past weekend we had Dominic stay with us from Friday until yesterday afternoon. We saw Daniel on Saturday at Ellie’s birthday party, and he came to help us Christen our new kitchen yesterday.

Dominic receives a belated Christmas gift from Daniel

Dominic receives a belated Christmas gift from Daniel

At Ellie’s party, we also saw Rachel, Maggie, and Ariana.

Emma was another two time visitor. She came over on Saturday to play with Dominic before we went to Ellie’s party, and she came again yesterday.

For reasons only a five year old could understand, she insisted I get a picture of her drinking her juice.

Emma drinking her juice

Emma drinking her juice

A surprise visitor was Anna. Her mother was working and her father was busy with other pursuits, so her Uncle Paul brought her to see us.

Anna playing dress up

Anna playing dress up

We were further surprised when Anna’s mom got off work early and came to join the fun. Anna’s mom is currently carrying a few extra pounds. In approximately seven weeks, she will deliver grandchild number thirteen.

So, let’s recap. This past weekend, in addition to Christening our new kitchen, we were able to see Alexis, Ariana, Landon, Liam, Rachel, Maggie, Ellie, Dominic, Emma, Anna, Daniel, and a boy to be named later.

That’s the most we could hope for! Our oldest grandson, Tyler, lives with his adoptive family in Arizona. He’s the only one we did not see in the last two days.

I believe that’s called Grandparents’ Heaven!

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I have been corrected by my daughter! Joel Ruff was more than nominated for the award. He WON the award. The only question is when the Police Department will hold a ceremony to recognize him publicly.

WAY TO GO JOEL!!!!


Love those grand kids!

March 29, 2009
Emma & Dominic help Grandpa read a book

Emma & Dominic help Grandpa read a book

Dr. Seuss has always been a favorite of mine. It’s been a lot of years since I first read the Butter Battle Book and I’d forgotten how it ended. As I told my grand kids, the Zooks and the Yooks should have compromised and made a sandwich to share.

If you’ve read the book, you’d understand that statement. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a copy and read it.

Dominic is staying with us this weekend and Emma, who lives about five minutes away, came over to play with him yesterday. It seems the two of them spent a lot of time on my lap as we worked our way through the Children’s Library.

Later in the day, Emma went home and my bride, Dominic, and I went to granddaughter Ellie’s birthday party. There we were greeted by Ellie and her sisters, Rachel and Maggie. We were later joined by Daniel and Ariana.

Not bad! In one day we managed to spend time with seven of our twelve grandchildren. We also saw some other children and adults, but the kids are always the highlight.

Today we’re having a bunch of grandkids and their parents over to help us Christen the new kitchen. That means more photos for tomorrow’s entry.


Happy Birthday Ellie!

March 28, 2009
Ellie in her younger days

Ellie in her younger days

This picture of my granddaughter was taken last December when she and a group of her cousins came over to help grandma and grandpa bake Christmas cookies. You can tell by that smile that she had a good time.

Yesterday Ellie turned seven and we’re celebrating her birthday a day late. This is the cake my bride baked for her. Ellie requested a pink princess cake. I think this one qualifies.

Another work of art by Grandma Lu

Another work of art by Grandma Lu

Because life has been so hectic around here, we plan to catch up on a couple of other birthdays on Sunday when we Christen our newly remodeled kitchen.

Lisanne, our daughter-in-law was called off to Savannah around her birthday when her father was hospitalized. Paul, Lu’s son, simply slipped through the cracks.

One thing’s for sure, although we hate to miss any birthdays, we pay closer attention to the grandchildren than our adult children. I hope they understand.

Of course, Lu never baked a princess cake for Lisanne. I sure hope there’s no hidden message there.

In any case, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELLIE!


Forget the Fire and brimstone

March 27, 2009

I have two situations to share with you today. I’ll warn you in advance – don’t expect any humor in either story. Do expect some lessons in life and the hereafter.

Situation one: A boy becomes a drug addict while still in high school. He’s the youngest child in a very good Christian family. All of his siblings grow up to be people in whom their parents and other relatives can take great pride. This boy becomes the ‘black sheep’ who is avoided in all but the most private conversations.

As a young adult, the drug addict impregnates a girl and becomes a father. All the while, he is unable to hold a job for any length of time because of his habit. He steals to support his habit and is frequently arrested. (In once instance,  he was arrested for shoplifting while using his toddler daughter as a shield.)  He borrows from loan sharks and must constantly return to his father to beg – not for forgiveness, but for money.

His father, by this time, is retired and living on a fixed income. Between bail bondsmen and loan sharks, the father is soon in a position where he must borrow from friends and family to continue to help his wayward son.

While the drug addict son is taking an emotional toll on the entire family, an even worse problem is eating away at his father. Cancer has invaded the father’s body. That cancer eventually leads to an extremely painful death.

The drug addict son is terribly shaken by the death of his father, but is basically shunned at the funeral. His siblings and mother blame the son for the death of his father. Intellectually they know the son had nothing to do with the cancer, and yet they cannot let go of the emotional belief. Everyone knows that stress can lead to terrible health problems.

As for the drug addict’s obvious distress over the loss of his father, his siblings and mother can’t help feeling that the boy’s only regrets are based on losing his enabler.

In the years following the father’s death, the wayward son has continued to be in and out of trouble. He claims to be clean of his former habit, but a person with a record of lying, cheating, and stealing is not easy to believe. To this day, his mother becomes emotionally upset in his presence.

Situation two: Pastor Kerry Maurer related this story as part of a recent sermon.

I woman came to see him about her drug addict son who had tried to commit suicide several times. She was terrified that her son would eventually succeed and spend his eternity in Hell.

Pastor Kerry explained that he asked the woman to close her eyes and imagine her son standing before God… facing his final judgment.

Then he asked her to picture herself sitting next to God and watching the proceedings.

This caused the woman much anguish and many tears, but she finally was able to regain her composure and picture the scene in her mind’s eye.

Pastor Kerry then asked the woman to tell him what she saw happening.

She said she couldn’t just sit there and watch. She went to her son and hugged him close to her.

Pastor Kerry then asked her what God was doing.

“He’s hugging both of us.” was the woman’s response.

She was now crying tears of joy as she came to recognize that God’s love for her son was even more powerful than her own.

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The mother in the first situation may never come to see her son in the same way as the mother in situation two. However, I believe she needs to do that for her own sake. She must let go of the thoughts that her drug addict son caused her husband’s death and ruined her family. She needs to look at the other children and see how fortunate they are to have such fine young adults that were raised by them.

In the meantime, I believe that both situations provide food for thought and should make people realize that fighting a losing war on drugs isn’t just costing taxpayers billions of dollars, it’s tearing families apart.

If all recreational drugs were legal, their pureness would be better controlled and the billions of dollars generated by drug trafficking would be taxed. The tax money could then be spent on recovery programs – which have been proven to be more successful than arrests and jail.

Both young men might have received help. One may have gotten his life in order long before his father’s death. The other might have seen a purpose in his life and not made multiple attempts to end that life.

Unfortunately, with the politicians who are supposed to be representing us, the likelihood of legalized drugs has as much chance of becoming a reality as the Fair Tax.

They’re more concerned with getting re-elected than doing what’s best for our nation.


Ireland Revisited

March 26, 2009

I’d go back in a heartbeat!

We booked a tour that included air fare from Baltimore to Shannon and back, one night in a hotel in Shannon, coupons for Bed & Breakfast Inns for six nights, and a rental car. As I recall, the entire trip – including round trip air fare from Atlanta to Baltimore and an overnight stay in Baltimore, cost us less than $2,500.

And this is one of the sites we saw on our first day in Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

We took this trip along with six members of my extended family. My bride and I laid out what we considered reasonable plans before we ever left home. In fact, I’d already made reservations at six different B&Bs; we knew in advance where we’d finish each day. What we did in between was up to whatever whim caught our attention.

The other folks decided to be totally flexible. Thus, after the Irish Coffee reception, they sat around a table trying to decide what to do first. Lu and I listened for a bit, then got into our rental car and headed for the Cliffs of Moher.

It was already late in the afternoon when we decided to leave the tranquil beauty of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. As we approached the parking lot, we met the other members of our entourage. We didn’t chat long because the sun was setting and they had a long walk to get to the best vantage points. It was also getting quite cold and snow was beginning to fall.

Instead of heading directly back to the hotel, Lu and I decided to follow our noses and find a place to eat dinner. I believe we found ourselves in a fishing village named Ballyvaughan. We went into a pub and were immediately warmed by the peat and coal fire.

I don’t recall what I ordered, but Lu ordered bacon and cabbage. Well, let me tell you! That bacon was what we could call ham and there was plenty of it.

The next morning my bride and I headed for Killarney, but stopped in Limerick along the way. That’s where we discovered King John’s Castle. History tells us that King John never spent a night there – he died before he could get back to it. The medieval structure was extremely interesting and made more so by the Viking settlement that was discovered buried beneath the castle. Those ruins were discovered during a remodeling project.

Life is so unfair. My bride and I discovered nothing so interesting when we remodeled our kitchen.

The B&B we stayed at that night was very comfortable. We had our own sitting room complete with a peat fire. The structure gave us a magnificent view of the MacGillicuddy Reeks (a mountain range south of Killarney) and I found myself thinking of Lucille Ball.

The landlady asked if we’d care for porridge with our Irish breakfast (which was included each day). I made the mistake of saying I could do without the oatmeal. I was told in no uncertain terms that porridge and oatmeal were two very different beasts. So I agreed to have porridge with my breakfast. It sure tasted a lot like oatmeal.

Following a wonderful breakfast (that also included bacon, eggs, toast, blood pudding, and fruit) we were off for a tour of the Ring of Kerry. We’d been warned not to drive (although I was doing a pretty good job of staying on the other side of the road) and had made reservations for a bus tour.

That’s when we ran into the other members of our group. They had tried to take a boat ride to the Aran Islands but were told they needed to make reservations. They did for a day later and then headed for the Ring of Kerry.

Seacoast on the Ring of Kerry

Seacoast on the Ring of Kerry

There were a number of places we would have stopped had I been driving. Being at the mercy of the bus driver, we stopped where he was supposed to stop. Of course, even the professionals have to alter their routes from time to time.

Free Range Organic Sheep

Free Range Organic Sheep

The only reason the sheep are not in our lane is the driver got out and shooed them over.

Naturally our driver stopped in one little village where we were able to do some shopping. Lu bought a beautiful sweater that she wears all the time and I bought a CD and music book featuring the songs of Phil Coulter.

After our tour of the Ring of Kerry, our group parted company once more. Altough we’d planned on meeting at the Cronin Pub in the city of Cork, they never showed up. I believe they then headed back north for their Aran Island excursion while we headed east for a tour of the Waterford Crystal plant.

We ran into them again at Trinity College in Dublin where we’d all gone to see the Book of Kells and other points of interest. Naturally, we all took the tour of the Guinness brewery.

The Nectar of the Irsih Gods

The Nectar of the Irish Gods

The following day my bride and I headed north to visit Newgrange, which can best be described as an underground Stonehenge. It’s one of those prehistoric structures that seems to be a tremendous effort to create a calendar.

Finally, we headed for Bunratty Castle.

Lu befriends an archer

Lu befriends an archer

While Lu tried to make friends with the locals, I headed for the roof to see what I could see.

A perfect view for an archer

A perfect view for an archer

Later, at the castle, Lu and I were treated to a medieval feast. The first course was turnip soup; we were handed a knife and a napkin. I doubt the people who originally lived in the castle were given napkins.

The soup was very thick and we were given chunks of bread to help us along the way. It was delicious soup and was followed by ribs and chicken and other delightful finger foods.

All the while we were entertained by our singing and dancing wait staff. It was an absolutely marvelous way to bring our first trip to Ireland to a close. The next morning we headed back to the Shannon airport and home.

I’d go back in a heartbeat!


Chef’s Surprise

March 25, 2009
Today I’m going to review some photos. When I see one I particularly like, I’ll insert it. Then I’ll have something to write about and it will be a surprise to us all!
The Old Bank Building

The Old Bank Building

This photo reminds me of a truism that most people don’t recognize. That truism is: “You are definitely an ‘old-timer’ when you give directions based on what used to be.”

The building in the center of the photograph was the First National Bank of Crafton. My parents never deposited any money there – after losing a home during the Great Depression, they didn’t have much faith in banks. But my mother did go into that building on a regular basis… to pay utility bills and to buy money orders to use for other bills.

The bank changed names and moved out of that building decades ago, but I’d be willing to bet that old-timers in Crafton still tell people to turn at the old bank building. For clarification, they might tell the hapless person to look for where the Franklin Five & Ten Cent store used to be.

The Old 5 & 10

The Old 5 & 10

Of course, if they really wanted to be precise, they could add that the trolley car used to go right past the intersection. You can imagine what this intersection looked like with even more overhead wires.

When I moved to Georgia, I encountered many old-timers. “Go north on highway nine until you come to where Egg Acres used to be. Then turn left and go until the road dead ends. Make a right…”

If you’re like me, you stopped listening when you were told to go until the road dead ends. In Pittsburgh, when you got to the end of a dead end street, you had no choice but to turn around and go back the way you came.

I soon learned that when a Southerner referred to the dead end of a road, he or she was referring to a “T” intersection. The road you were traveling on came to an end – BUT, when it intersected with the other road, you could turn either right or left and continue your journey.

Of course, I vowed that I would never give such poor directions. That was more than thirty years ago. I now find myself telling people to go past where the old Texaco station was and turn where the house that burned down used to be. But I still don’t tell them to turn when the road dead ends.

Tomorrow I think I’ll dig through our pictures of Ireland. Now that it’s Spring, we could all do with a bit of green.