Planned for the last weekend in July, the festival’s artistic offerings will include everything from paintings, photography and handmade soaps and toiletries to jewelry, dried floral arrangements and metal sculptures from 65 Berkshire County vendors.
New this year to the church’s major fundraising event will be both live and silent auctions offering a dizzying array of merchandise, dinners prepared by John McNinch’s Olde Heritage Tavern, a family fun area (with face painting and cotton candy and other activities) and a Church on the Hill booth showing the church’s many missions and outreach work.
The 90 members of Church on the Hill have been working non-stop as they prepare to welcome the community to the special festival and make the historical church’s presence even more well known.
“We’d like others to know about our church,” said Barbara Sims, one of the festival planners.
Both Mrs. Sims and her husband, Walton, have been faithful members of Church on the Hill since moving to Lenox about seven years ago.“It’s easy for churches to get lost in the noise,” she said, adding she loves Church on the Hill and sees it as a welcoming place where everyone cares deeply for one another.
Mrs. Sims, an artist herself, started visiting crafts fairs throughout Berkshire County last year to see how they were run. The way booths are set up is important, and this year, the booths in Lilac Park will be set up differently, she said.
The weekend will include a pancake breakfast on Sunday, July 28 from 8-10:30 a.m.
Pies by the slice
For lunch, there will be sizzling hamburgers and hot dogs, soups, sandwiches and dozens of homemade apple, blueberry, chocolate, peach, pecan, strawberry and strawberry rhubarb pie slices.
“People come especially for the homemade pie,” Carol Powell said.
She has been working on the luncheon booth along with Ellen Merritt, another church member.
Mrs. Powell has been involved in the fair, along with her husband, John, for 18 years. They’ve been members at Church on the Hill for almost 30 years.
“We love it,” Mrs. Powell said of the church. “There’s a sense of community and fellowship. Everybody cares.”
“It’s a very welcoming church,” her husband added.
Vendors fee $275
Fees for vendors this year went up from $250 to $275 per booth, Mrs. Sims said. The planning committee has to pay for rental of Lilac Park as well as many other expenses associated with the fair.
The remainder of the proceeds go directly back to the church for upkeep and expenses as well as to support numerous missions worldwide.
Many of the silent auction items have been donated by church members. For example, Mrs. Sims contributed hand-painted furniture, and another church member, an afghan. There will also be paintings, a Vermont teddy bear donated by Mrs. Powell and numerous other items.
Pastor Natalie Shiras and Lynn Sutton, church member, have worked tirelessly on obtaining items for the live auction, from 6-8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 27.
“They’ve been scouring the area for trips, restaurant certificates, jewelry, clothing and everything in between,” Mrs. Sims said.
Bob Romeo will be the auctioneer for the live auction on Saturday night.
Many of the vendors will donate items to be given away to pulling names-out-of-jars prize-winners, too.
Church booth will show missions
At the new Church on the Hill booth there will be note cards picturing photographs by Michael Cohen, an artist and church member. Information showing the church’s missions and photographs of past events will also be available.
One of the church’s missions is outreach to welcome people, Mrs. Sims said, and there will be plenty of that at the upcoming two-day festival.
Some items vendors will be selling at the festival are blown glass, ceramic pottery, children’s puzzles and toys, clothing for children and adults, decoupage, doll clothes, dried flower arrangements, handmade soaps and toiletries, jewelry, ornate holiday décor, paintings and metal sculptures.
“You name it and we’ve got it,” Mrs. Sims said. “We’ve done our best to make sure everything is handmade.”
Shop early for Christmas
She said the two-day fair will be an “early Christmas shopping opportunity.”
There will also be demonstration booths where visitors can actually see the arts and crafts being made on-the-spot.
In addition, Lenox Middle and High School art students will be selling their work as well as students from IS183 in Stockbridge, Mrs. Sims said.
Church on the Hill has been serving people for a long time. It was established in 1786.
Dr. Samuel Shepherd was one of the longest serving pastors throughout 50 years.
In order for Lenox to become incorporated, the town had to establish a meeting house, Mrs. Powell said. That’s how the church originated.
“It has a very fascinating history,” she said.
A lot of history
“This church as seen the Civil War and tax rebellions,” Mrs. Sims added.
It’s seen many presidents in office in Washington and has survived both good and bad times.
Mr. Powell noted that all churches are having a difficult time financially.
“Fuel is expensive and oil is expensive,” he said. At Church on the Hill there are two buildings to keep up and it tends to get very expensive, especially when the congregation is fairly small.
“We’re always looking for ways to economize,” Mrs. Sims said, just as everyone in the church is working hard on the upcoming fair.
“Everybody bakes a pie,” Mrs. Sims chuckled. “Some bake four and some bake eight.”
KIVA is one of the church’s missions. It provides loans to entrepreneurs in several countries. The church also helps with food, clothing and décor at the Christian Center in Pittsfield; the Lenox Food Pantry; and the Boomerang Society in St. Petersburg, Russia. The latter assists retirees who are without pensions and who may have medical problems, Mrs. Powell said.
Bereavement ministry, too
Church on the Hill also has a very active bereavement ministry that reaches out to families who have lost loved ones as well as a prayer shawl ministry.
Another part of its community outreach, provided by church member Michael Cohen, is to give painting lessons to residents at Kimball Farms Nursing Home and free lessons at the Lenox Community Center.
The church also has a sister church in the city of Acra in Ghana, South Africa. They have donated a van as well as musical instruments there.
The Powells remember well the early arts and crafts fairs at the church. At one, there were 125 crafters. The church would set up a huge tent, rather than individual booths.
“It was bedlam,” Mrs. Powell said, remembering.
“Good food and good fun”
There are plenty of places to park for the fair, Mrs. Sims said, including after noon behind Berkshire Bank and behind the town hall. On street parking is now restricted to two hours throughout Lenox, Mrs. Sims said.
The fair is will provide “good food and good fun,” she added.
“The weather is so important,” Mrs. Powell said.
Right now, the entire congregation just might be praying for clear skies and no rain.
If you are among the many people who thrive on small town community fairs, mark July 27 and 28 on your calendar so you won’t miss Church on the Hill’s extravaganza.