An Update from Montana
Greetings family and friends! Our fifth annual Farm Day and Craft Fair occurred on Saturday, August 22. Throughout the week, a steady stream of brothers and sisters arrived from Texas to help with the final push to completion.
On the day before the fair, clouds skittered across the sky, and a warm sun beat down on Greycliff Creek Ranch. The Heritage Restorations crew raised the skeletal structure of a rustic barn for silent auction the next day. The steady hum of a forklift and skid-steer loader mingled with music floating out from under the red-and-white striped tent as we completed our afternoon music rehearsal.
A number of families showed up with their dinners and ate at picnic tables in the music/dining tent. We were all in the homestretch together. Around 7:00 PM, everyone who was not already at the fair grounds arrived for the final evening music rehearsal.
Brother John Mark strummed his guitar enthusiastically and sang, “Are you lost and lonely, broken down? Bring all of your troubles, come lay ‘em down.” This fair, more than ever before, it is our desire to bring a message of hope to the attendees.
In the craft barn, a group of young men set up plywood display shelves; then the crafts started rolling in. In one area were a couple of dozen baskets, including pine needle baskets, and Sister Grace’s masterpiece of the year, a three-foot-tall elk antler basket. Sister Camille Palmer and Sister Kelly Palmer, her sister-in-law, set up a kaleidoscope of colorful woven dish towels, hot pads, soft crocheted blankets and beautiful hand-knit sweaters and shawls.
Brother Ernie and Sister Denise displayed their handmade brooms from broom corn grown last summer on the ranch. Brother Ernie also hand turns the slender twisted broom handles.
A large collection of sewing projects and quilts filled one corner of the barn. Together we quilted a queen-size quilt that Sister Rachel Lindsay pieced together earlier in the year. Smaller baby quilts and wall hangings hung above the display tables.
Sister Grace Holifiled and Sister Abigail Bowden, with Sister Renanah Sherman, Sister Abby Woody and Anna Diaz made a collection of aprons with matching hot pads. These were hung for display. Hanging with them were two runs of denim jumpers laced with colorful flowery ribbon, along with various tote bags for ladies.
Brother Caleb Oakley had a small array of beautiful leather projects he had made. Brother Zachary Dumont set up canisters of wooden spoons and spatulas, cedar cutting boards, rolling pins and coaster sets made by young, eager boys at evening woodworking classes.
On the morning of the fair, Brother Jake and some boys set up A-frame hand-painted signs reading “Farm Day, Greycliff Creek Ranch” with an arrow underneath pointing down the road toward the ranch. They placed the signs near the two exits east and west of the ranch and at various points along the way to guide folks.
By 9:30 AM a steady trickle of vehicles drove down the road and lined the ranch driveway. The delicious aroma of fresh pretzels and smoking brisket was detectable even from the entrance! Throughout the day a line of hungry guests stood in front of the kitchen ordering food. Warm burritos, pretzels and pastries sold well in the morning. Brother Michael and Sister Deborah Ballerino made their famous fresh-popped kettle corn and Sister Renanah served iced coffee, milkshakes and soft, fresh-crank huckleberry ice cream.
The shrill voices of goats being held by young children in the petting pen could be heard over the hubbub of human voices. From time to time Brother Micah would announce the next seminar class in the small cabin or one of the demonstrations: milking cows, harvesting wheat, or barn raising, just to name a few.
As the number of attendants rose, so did the temperature! Many people rested and ate lunch at the picnic tables in the shade under the music tent.
At 12:50 all of us who were playing instruments gathered on the stage to prepare for the 1:00 PM music. As the first notes of “Cripple Creek” rolled from Isaiah’s banjo, the crowd of people sitting at the picnic tables turned eagerly toward the stage. After we played a few bluegrass pieces, the children’s choir, ages three through nine, took the stage.
They sang enthusiastically the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It” before the youth choir joined them. A smile lit up every face of our guests as three-year-old Jordan sang the first few lines of “This Little Light of Mine” into a microphone perched on a stand practically folded in half so that he could reach the microphone. Then Brother Abraham Dumont took over the lead as the song medley changed, and together he and the choir sang “Sunshine!” The crowd cheered and clapped loudly as the younger choir left the stage. A group of adults sang a handful of gospel songs to conclude.
After the music, the demonstrations and seminars continued. Parents brought their eager children to the make-your-own tent where the young folks could make a basket, a jump rope, a soap ball, dip a candle, or build a birdhouse. In the craft barn, a consistent circle of people watched as Sister Abby Bowden demonstrated how to transform a lump of clay into a vase or a mug, and Sister Camille’s try-it-yourself loom never seemed to stay vacant.
Close to dinner time another wave of guests arrived for the evening music and good Texas-style barbecue. The sinking sun glowed orange on the grey cliffs. A slight breeze blew through the fair grounds as we gathered under the red and white tent once again with many close friends and locals for dinner and evening music.
Brother John Mark opened the evening by thanking everyone for attending and sharing with us in a wonderful day of fellowship and activity.
The first instrumental was a piece for two pianos. Sister Grace Holifield and Sister Naomi Bowden relearned the lively “Keep On the Firing line” the day before the fair—a song neither of them had played in years! Sweat soaked Sister Naomi’s palms as she and her older sister kept looking at each other, grinning, as they tried not to freeze up at the last minute. The crowd laughed when Brother John Mark warned them that the pianists had not played the song in years and had pulled it out of the hat the day before. He was serious, which they did not realize!
Grace and Naomi sped through the instrumental, practically holding their breath the whole time. As they rumbled out the last octaves on the bottom row of keys of the keyboards, the crowd cheered and hollered. Whew! The two sisters could breathe again!
We shared a wonderful evening with the local community of people that we have come to know. At times some cried. We clapped a lot, and sometimes we simply worshiped together. Everyone rose to their feet as we finished the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” Afterwards, a lady with whom we had done business in the past shared with a few of us that, “while the earth all around us is sinking sand, through the music we had been lead to the Rock” (partially quoting a song sung earlier in the evening). She also added that “this is the message the whole world needs to see and hear.”
Following the evening music, we served peach cobbler and fresh-cranked vanilla ice cream for dessert. Slowly the crowd dwindled until only our community members remained. In a matter of a few hours, a transition occurred that made it hard to tell there had been a fair! The number of attendees totaled 517.