It’s been a holiday tradition for more than a half-century here, and it went off in customary community style once again last week. The Sun Set Fair holiday bazaar was held at Odell’s United Methodist Church for the 52nd year from Wednesday through Saturday, and much of the community — as well as many people from up and down the valley — partook in the wide variety of food and crafts that filled the small basement community room.
The fair is put on by the ladies of the Sun Set Club, a service organization of the church, as one of its main fund-raisers of the year. Money raised goes to a wide range of church projects, from buying new choir robes to replacing worn-out floors.
“Anything we see that needs to be done, this is how we do it,” said Marianne Fletcher, fair organizer. The club members, which number about a dozen, spend months making crafts to sell at the fair. They also make jellies and jams, dried fruit, cookies and other goodies, and a “famous mustard sauce” which, according to Fletcher, sold out early on.
Another tradition of the fair is the pie. Make that pies. Lots of them — but sold as slices only. Beverly Thoman, who calls herself the “pie lady,” was in charge of the pies this year.
“I call, I cajole, and I don’t threaten,” Thoman said. The result was that pies — beginning with 20 on the first day and followed by nearly a dozen each day — arrived at the church ready to be sliced and served fresh. They ranged from marionberry and peach to sour-cream raisin, pumpkin and coconut cream.
“The pies come from all the church members,” Thoman said. “The gals are all really great about making pies.” Fresh ice cream, made in the church kitchen by Loren Fletcher, was available, too.
Some people came to the fair to get a jump start on Christmas shopping, while others came just for lunch (before their pie, most visitors enjoyed a steaming bowl of corn chowder).
“It’s great to see the teachers come over from the school for lunch,” Fletcher said. Another regular, Butch Gehrig, who owns the Chevron station across from the church, always comes over the first day, according to Fletcher.
“He gives us $20-30 and says, ‘Let me know when it’s used up,’” she said. Then he and his employees come over for lunch each day.
“Everyone supports it,” Fletcher said. “It’s really wonderful.”
The Hazel Rebekah Lodge down the street was busy Saturday, too, with its annual holiday bazaar combined with the Hood River Art Club’s holiday art sale. The Rebekah event raises money for scholarships and other community projects.
By Saturday, several quilts had been sold, as well as many crafts and other items (the bazaar started Friday). But the most popular item at the lodge was fresh-baked bread that was being made constantly throughout the day by Doris Messenger.
Before Saturday was over, Messenger would bake 64 batches of bread, alternating between white and cinnamon-raisin.
“It’s a lot of bread,” Messenger said as she rolled out yet another batch of dough. “It’s a lot of elbow grease.” Messenger has been baking bread at the annual bazaar for nearly a decade.
“The loaves come out and they don’t set on the counter more than 5 to 10 minutes before they’re gone,” she said.
As the smell of cinnamon wafted from the lodge kitchen, Mary Ellen Picking, an organizer of the event, praised Messenger.
“She works so hard,” she said. “She deserves a lot of credit.” Judging from the quickly vanishing fresh bread, she was getting plenty of that.