There are the usual tell-tale signs that herald autumn: the weather is a little crisper and the leaves turn their vibrant yellows and reds. The omnipresent ‘back-to-school’ sales and fall sign-up registrations remind everyone the summer holiday is really and truly over.
But Salmon Arm has a long-standing tradition that many use as their official marker of the fall season – the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) bazaar and tea.
The bazaar has been a popular event for more than 40 years and, over time, acquired the status of the harbinger of fall.
“It’s a social outing for ladies from the different churches,” says Jeri Meyers. “It’s quite truthfully the start of the new fall season. Summer is over, and you get together with your friends for tea and get into the fall routine.”
Linda Faust and Linda Painchaud mention other groups from neigbouring communities that have been coming to the bazaar for years, including the Armstrong Women’s Institute members.
It’s a lot of planning and preparation for the CWL but, as they all agree, it’s not really work when they get together to do something.
“When you’re in the kitchen making sandwiches, you have time to learn about somebody else,” says Jeri. “The new friendships – that’s been a real joy.”
She jokes that it cost her a bit of money to join the group.
“I had to buy a new oven. I couldn’t bake in my old one and baking seems to be a prerequisite. If you can’t bring goodies, you can’t cross through the door.”
They all laugh at this.
Linda Painchaud joined the group after she retired for a couple of reasons. Primarily it was important for her to be part of something that would make a difference.
“In my younger days I travelled and I’ve seen extreme poverty and it concerns me. We live in conditions with everything we could want. It’s important to help the disadvantaged, and young people with their education.”
It also helped her fill that social gap that people can feel at retirement.
“When you retire from work you become a non-person. And when you don’t work you become a little more invisible.”
Now between the CWL and local branch of the Okanagan Historical Society she is very busy. In fact, she is blending her interest in both for this year’s bazaar, giving it an old-fashioned country general store theme.
As usual, there will be a fun mix of things to buy, ranging from handmade crafts, potted plants, produce, raffles, tasty treats, an eclectic table with items like costume jewelry and LPs, and, of course, the popular tea room.
“We’re noted for our tea service,” says Linda Faust who is president of the Salmon Arm CWL chapter.
There is a special ambiance when the room is full of people getting together, relaxing, and laughing. It’s a bringing together of community as in the old days when people would gather to celebrate after the harvest. And all the money raised goes to good causes, locally and around the world.
“We support Shuswap Hospice,” Linda Faust gives as an example. “We give scholarships and we are involved in Save A Family – it’s a program for families in Third World countries. We support a family and when they become self-sufficient they give us the name of another family. We’re not just community oriented, we’re world oriented.”
The Country General Store Bazaar & Tea takes place Saturday, Sept. 29, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s parish hall, 90 First St. SE. Everyone is welcome.