Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Hebron Crossroads 8-17-03
by Jeff Gill

Red. Deep, dark, glowing, vital red; cherry tomato red, with streaks of russet yellow echoing the seeds rougher gold inside.
There's no doubting that the tomato crop this year is small and slow, no doubt to a severe drought of sunlight with the excessive surplus of water, agua, liquid precipitation.
But oh, do they taste sweet and strong!
No one has left tomatoes on my doorstep anonymously, nor have they appeared on the driver's seat of cars incautiously left unlocked as in years past. There won't be quite the same abundance of marinara, or "red sauce" this fall, or of homemade salsa in the Gill residence, but the cherry tomatoes tast absolutely heavenly.
We've got a pot of basil going, too; it has a strong and savory taste to it as well. Nature is going for density over quantity this year, and we'd best enjoy it. Scissored up over a cold pasta salad or just on top of angel hair and olive oil with parmesan is a great late summer dish, especially as i'm way too lazy to make pesto. (Climb the mountain, pick the pinon nuts, crack and grind them, wash the tree resin off my. . .what? They have pine nuts at Kroger? Nevermind. . .)
Green is also dark and deep right now. Francis Mayes, the poet, talks of "the green fuse" of spring, but it's the mid to late August explosion of wildflowers straight up into the sky that amazes me with nature's resiliency and surprise. Ironweed in particular: boom, right up in a deep green shading to purple stem with flanging leaves, growing seemingly overnight and then a kapow of glowing purple majesty.
Brown is starting to fringe the trees and fields. Searing heat at the margins plus the work of voracious mites on the locust trees gives a distinct hint of autumn in various corners and pockets, but with less yellow than you might expect with as cool a summer as we've had.
Dark pockets of dim shadow are filling the voids under the heavy canopy along treelines; even at noon -- no, especially at noon, the dim recesses of the woodlots are a kind of dark you only see in high summer, a darkness suffused with light.
But there's also no whiteness of sumulus clouds like you get in August, with the ridged columns of white lined out by a shadowed blue that hints of the water inside them, waiting to fall thousands of feet to pund you tomatoes yet again.
And the pink of evening cloudbanks in the west, shimmering into a magenta on the way to night.
Turquoise at the dawn to come around again, and the light strikes the dull silver of the cages around the tomato plants, with their heavy green leaves spilling out through the rungs, shading the occasional dot of. . .red, as a larger sphere in the east bumps up over the horizon to echo its smaller cousin hanging from the vine, glowing tomato red in the early morning murk low in the sky.

So, have you bought a box of crayons yet for your child's back to school? Lord have mercy: lime fizz green, neon yellow, electric gonzo blue, ethnically diverse brown, snazz-bo silver, fright-house severed finger red, zone of lethal radioactivity chartreuse. (I may have made up a few of those last ones) What will the Little Guy color with these? Kindergarten will be a fun year, I have no doubt; we just want him to enjoy it, too.
But I do hope that the primary grades still use the primary colors, occasionally. Still, we have only ourselves to blame for the fact that he thinks that rodents have three fingers (see Mouse, Mickey), octopi have pets who are made up of fast food parts (you don't watch Oswald and Weenie-dog?), and that a box of crayons have no colors found in nature.
On the other hand, when I read him "The Wind In The Willows," the idea of a Water Rat rowing a Mole across The River isn't strange to him at all, and that's how it should be as the summer of 2003 comes to a close.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and proud possessor of a 64 color box of crayons, the old set that includes "burnt sienna." If you have stories of lost colors, primary or elementary, call 928-4066 or e-mail disciple@voyager.net.
Sweet Corn Festival 2003
By Jeff Gill

“Heritage Village at Historic Lions Park” is the latest attraction at the 57th annual Millersport Sweet Corn Festival. Starting Wednesday, August 27 and ending at midnight on Saturday the 30th, the midway, entertainment stages, and all the long standing attractions will join the newest, attracting tens of thousands to this village at the west end of Buckeye Lake.
That, and lots of buttered sweet corn to eat!
“We started out in 1996 to create an area where our history will live on for the benefit of future generations,” says Ron Keller, general chairman for this year’s edition of the festival. “Ohio statehood and our 200 year history are visible in this collection of historic buildings.” Near the Lions’ clubhouse on the festival grounds, a local “Greenfield Village” of relocated and refurbished structures, from a covered bridge and a canal barge to an early gas station and pharmacy, is open for visitors with hosts and hostesses scheduled through the run of the event.
For a county with no official “county fair,” residents of Licking County have a wide range of choices through the end of the summer. Especially in the southern half of the county, residents are kept busy with following the 4-H displays up to the Hartford Fair in Croton (just ended), supporting many local non-profit organizations through their food booths at the Sweet Corn Festival, and winding down the season (and starting the fall) at the Fairfield County Fair in Lancaster.
But groups like the local Lions Clubs, the Buckeye Lake Youth Association, and Lakewood Band Boosters all raise a significant portion of their funds each year through this four day celebration of food. “We have 80 charitable groups from eight counties in central Ohio who sell food and raise funds at the festival,” says Keller. “Many people don’t know how important that part of the Sweet Corn Festival is.”
The Millersport Lions Club is the sponsoring organization, as they have been since 1946 when the first plans were laid after World War II to put on a fun and fund-raising activity for the Buckeye Lake area. Fairfield, Licking, Perry, and Franklin Counties have always been well represented in both the participant and the visitor side of the festival, and some visitors have been spotted from as far away as Australia and Japan.
This is probably one of the most family friendly activities in central Ohio, with no entry fee to the festival grounds and entertainment on four free stages. You can pay for parking if you want, but free parking is easily available, and the cost for the midway attractions is some of the lowest you’ll find.
As for food, from ears of butter-dunked sweet corn to boxes of freshly fried doughnuts, you won’t find better deals anywhere, anytime.
For most festival goers, Wednesday at 6 pm is the real beginning of the program, with the Sweet Corn Parade starting out at Millersport High School and turning downtown out to the festival park. Many area marching bands are making their first public appearance since organizing at band camp earlier in the month, and are testing out new music and routines.
With the state “festival season” winding down, an amazing number of “Strawberry Queens” and “Pork Princesses” from all over Ohio appear in the parade, a pretty counterpoint to the raucous assortment of Shriner vehicles and antique fire engines and other assorted entries, along with some very attractive floats and rolling displays by a variety of local organizations and businesses.
With the Sweet Corn Festival in full gear, each night is some kind of “corn eating contest,” with Saturday night culminating in the Grand Champion Corn Eating Contest, featuring each night’s champs.
Saturday, August 30, starts the last day of the affair with the Ken Keener Classic 5-K Run, open to all ages (call 740-246-6101 to register). Word has it that runners are looking for fresh cut French fries as soon as the race is over, causing the deep fryers to start early, as they’ll run late to the midnight drawing for the $10,000 Sweet Corn Festival Raffle Grand Prize.
Through the last day is also the Amateur Talent Show on the bandstand stage, with cash prizes for the top five finishers (call 740-246-5680 to register).
When the last box of doughnuts is sold for church coffee hour the next morning, and the raffle announcement echoes off the emptying grounds of Lions Park, it will be both the end of the 57th Sweet Corn Festival, and the start of the 361 days of planning for the 58th, which will be as it always has on the Wednesday through Saturday before Labor Day, 2004!

For more information and a complete schedule of the 57th Millersport Sweet Corn Festival, click on www.sweetcornfest.com.