Annunciation Catholic Church remains at heart of Maple Leaf
Anyone who has ever attended the annual Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City has probably seen the large food booth at the center of the fall event.
A large yellow booth has been the staple of the corner of Eighth and High streets for more than two decades. On the south side of the building, several tables and dozens of chairs were set up and allowed festival attendees a place to sit and eat.
The booth is that of the Baldwin City Annunciation Catholic Church. The church members use the festival as its largest fundraiser of the year and this year was no exception.
“We were very busy, especially Saturday,” said Donita Turk, who organizes the event with her husband, Gary. “It was a very good weekend for us. It's a great fundraiser for the church. We're happy to be a part of the community and proud to anchor the corner of Eighth and High for more than 20 years.”
The congregation was to calculate its net profits from the weekend. Turk said its usually makes $6,000 to $9,000. The 2010 festival was the best year for the church's food booth as it raised more than $9,000 during the two days.
“I'm not really sure why, but after we discussed it and asked around. We felt like Sunday was slow compared to last year,” Turk said. “We're not sure why that happened. It just seemed to be a little bit slower than last year.
“The money we raise goes to support our parish and the children of our parish. We want them to be able to do things, like go to camps or other special things through the parish. It mostly supports the church and how we serve our community.”
Turk, along with other Maple Leaf Festival vendor organizers, know the weather during the weekend is always the main factor in how profitable the festival will be. During the past two years, festival attendees and vendors have enjoyed sunny, warm days.
“The weather is the key factor that drives it,” Turk said. “There have been down times where we've been rained out. But I'd say this year was a good year, and the weather really helped this year.”
Another factor, outside of the food offered, is the location of the booth. Most vendors are located on High or Eighth streets. The Annunciation Catholic Church booth has one of the best locations and its members enjoy it.
“We have a good spot,” said parishioner Knute Pittenger said. “People come up High Street or Eighth Street, and they see our booth at the same spot every year. It's a great location.”
“The location is great,” Turk said. “We love it there. We just continue to come back each year and be a part of the community. We also have seating there, where nobody else has seating. It's a nice thing to provide seating. It's a great time and we all enjoy it. We're tired the next day, but it's all worth it.”
Food choices are also a factor for the longtime festival vendor, which is a non-profit organization like all food vendors. The Annunciation Catholic Church offers a variety of foods, including hamburgers, pork burgers, hot dogs, bratwursts and homemade chili.
During this year's festival, the church booth sold 1,100 hot dogs, 600 bratwursts, 1,000 hamburgers and 900 pork burgers. They also went through hundreds of cans of soda.
“Oh my gosh, it's so busy,” Turk said. “We usually run three windows with two on each window, so we run about six lines. Our line usually goes around the corner of the bank after the parade. It's just great. We just cook and cook.”
While the church's booth is known for its long lines on the Saturday of the Maple Leaf Festival, organizers admit there is a lot of work that happens behind the scenes. The church members begin setting up the booth two nights before the festival.
It's become an almost scientific process, but it's still difficult each year to set up the booth. The same can be said for tearing it down on Sunday evening.
“It starts on Thursday when we put up the booth,” Pittenger said. “That in itself is a pretty big chore. It takes quite a few of us to put up that building. Once it's up and everybody has signed up to work, it's a good way for the church members to do things together. Not to mention, it's a major fundraiser for us. Of course, then we have to take it down on Sunday. So, it's not just working the festival; it's everything before and after that comes with it.”
The time spent together, whether be working during the lunch rush, flipping burgers on the grill or setting up the booth, is what Pittenger enjoys about being in the heart of Maple Leaf.
“The fun part about it is we get to be with other people for the church but do something outside of the church,” Pittenger said. “That's really the fun part about the whole weekend for us. I love it.”