Last weekend was only our second visit to the Toronto Festival of Arts in the 35 years that it has been in existence.
On the first visit, Lamont and I ate in leisure, wandered around looking at crafts and stopped to sit and enjoy the music of a Frank Sinatra impersonator. Our visit this past weekend was a bit more hectic but very fulfilling. We volunteered to help the Jefferson Ruritans with their concessions stand, and in the process, I learned to make funnel cakes that didn't resemble the elephant ears sold at fairs.
My art form in pouring batter from a two-quart pitcher with a long spout into a vat of hot oil was acquired through the instruction of Lester Grimes, someone who was on duty from start to finish on each of the two days.
The Howard Family Orchestra added soothing sounds to the festival.
Lamont McCoy, left, adds the ice to the crushing machine while Lisa Grimes filled and flavored the ice cones.
From left, Howard Shepherd, who assisted with the Sno cones; Charles Brown; and Don Clarke, Jefferson Ruritan president, held a conversation while holding up the menu board at the festival.
Mark Miller served as the entertainment chairman, announcer, poetry slam contest chairman and judge, intermission musician with his guitar and a member of the Jazzbo group.
I learned that you first make a circle inside the two round forms located in the hot oil cooker. Then you made criss-cross motions, making sure that the sides of the circle of batter are touching each time. If this isn't observed, you have pieces of a funnel cake, and it is not a bit attractive when put on a plate to be sold.
Flipping over the funnel cake to be browned on the opposite side is a bit tricky. Everyone knew to stand back as I sometimes made a big splatter. My glasses and sun glasses had a glaze of grease when I started for home.
I was very tentative at first, but after two failures, which I proceeded to eat and coaxed Lamont to do the same - sort of like Eve to Adam with the forbidden apple - I got the hang of it.
After a time, I felt confident enough to do it without any advice from the sidelines. Lester then took over the job of shaking on the powdered sugar, with Bob Meyer stepping in to do the honors later. Cathy Grimes spelled me off when the heat from the fryer got to be too much.
Rev. Meyers wore an apron asking the question "Have you hugged a Presbyterian today?" I gave him a big hug and said I could truthfully now respond in the affirmative.
As I was wearing one of the disposable aprons given to me by Linda Chivers of the Wintersville Kroger bakery and deli, Bob and I talked about how wearing an apron was required in years past. "Only us old people know about that," he said. Cathy Grimes took an interest in wearing an apron as well.
I could not get anyone else to wear an apron, although Howard Shepherd showed up on Sunday wearing a prized apron -his had pockets.
All day Saturday and Sunday, Lisa Grimes and Lamont labored over the making of Sno cones. One would think this was a cool and refreshing job, but they stood out in the sun, with water from the melting ice dripping into their shoes. And contending with lifting 10-pound bags of ice to put into the crusher wasn't great fun.
Lamont handled getting the ice from the freezer and putting it into the snow machine, while Lisa asked which of the grape, bubble gum, blue raspberry or cherry flavors was desired by the customer, usually children. Many times, they wanted a double flavor and occasionally they wanted three flavors.
Lisa was wearing a Steelers ball cap, getting some cheers and high fives from me. Lamont was in an Ohio State mood over the weekend and was wearing the red and gray cap of OSU, but he let her know that he was a Browns fan, and the two didn't mix.
I had to find out from Sylvia Austin if the homing pigeon that camped on their back doorstep was gone. It arrived at their house one day and decided to stay.
The Austins checked the leg band worn by the bird and called the number of the banding facility.
They learned the pigeon owner's name but could not reach him to tell him that his bird had lost its way or decided that its flight hours were over for a time.
After several tries at taking the bird away from their home and telling it to be on its way, they finally took it to a location that was facing the owner, and it never came back.
Mark Miller was wearing many hats at the festival. First, he started many months back in lining up entertainment that included blues, acoustic contemporary, classical, country rhythm, jazz and bluegrass music as the entertainment chairman. He served as master of ceremonies in introducing the acts, was in charge of the poetry slam, where junior high and high school students read their poetry with gusto and tried to get the audience to clap loudly in appreciation.
Nathan Keenan was first and Jayden Grim was second in the sixth-to- eighth-grade contest. Malaysia Harrison was first and Mariah Turner was second in the high school group.
This was the first year for the poetry slam, according to Maureen Taggart, high school principal.
Lester sent me to the bank to get $5 and $10 bills in exchange for $100. The bank was only open through the drive-through, and I had to stand in line along with the cars and wait my turn in getting to the flying money holders that transport the money into the bank and return it with the needed change.
I didn't pay much attention to Lester's directions on how to get to the bank and ended up being escorted by a member of the Goucher Hotel gang to the bank. He confided that there is a maze outside of the hotel, and it can be bypassed if you get paranoid about being in enclosed places that can abruptly end, with me being one of those people.
I want to pay a visit to the hotel that has had more than a century of horrifying history, where you come face to face with Madame Goyette and there is the Kale and Komar's curtains of chaos to deal with as well. Lights will be on for the children tours. Maybe I will take advantage of that one instead.
The ghoulish visits begin on Sept. 28 and continue through Nov. 3. The cost is $10, but for kids it is $5. The proceeds will benefit Coats for Kids.
Mary Emery stopped by the Ruritan stand for a chat and I saw my cousin, Liz McHugh, for a few minutes right before I got very busy.
Don Clarke, Ruitan president, was kept quite busy running for ice and soft drinks for the stand. He also was busy with his work during the weekend.
Chuck Campbell was the money changer for the Sno cones for many hours, and Warner Sanders handed out the cold drinks when an order came in. Howard Shepherd took over the ice project and handling of change on Sunday afternoon. He tells me that he is an old hand at doing the Sno cones as the club has been doing it for many years.
Chuck Lucas is part of the Joseph Sisters group and took over the stage for an hour of music. It was nice to see his mother, Shirley Lucas, there as well.
I have always enjoyed the Howard Family music and being right by the stage I got to watch as well as listen to the family members who I have known since they were in their teens.
On Labor Day, I came to the office to clean out one desk and reconstruct another as I have made a move in the office. I like the move but miss seeing the weather change from sunshine to rain and back again where I was located. I have good neighbors though as I am located between Janice Kiaski and Linda Harris and across from Mark Law and Dave Gossett.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)