The lure is the donuts.
Every Saturday from May through October, someone, some charitable group, starts frying up donuts in the early morning hours in the kitchen of the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park and lines start forming for a donut and coffee. Originally begun as a fundraising project for the church, it was later opened up to various organizations.
Then, there is the pick-up band.
Banjos and autoharps, guitars and cellos. A mandolin here, a bodhran or cymbals there; musicians stepping in as spots become available and stepping out in an intricate dance known only to the musicians. You can pull up a chair, or enjoy your donut and coffee at a table, if one is available, and simply enjoy the music. Saturday, it was bluegrass, with some hearty foot tapping to go with the soft autumn breeze, and some of the sweetest voices this side of heaven.
For 35 years, Oak Park has held their farmers market in the back lot of the church. It is one of the biggest and longest running markets in the Chicagoland area. We try to go a few times in the season. This year it just didn’t happen, so, with the temptation of a fresh donut in mind and some locally grown produce my mission, I headed in to Oak Park and one of their last markets of the year.
Parking was premium. Pilgrim church is across the street from Oak Park River Forest High School and there was a football game being played. It was a madhouse just trying to turn into the parking garage, though I lucked out and found a parking spot right away. There was an air of festivity with the cheers of the crowds and the dueling whistles between the football game and the traffic policemen. Wagons were filled with huge pumpkins and cornstalks were leading their new owners to their cars or down the leaf lined streets surrounding the church.
It was such a good day to be a Midwesterner!
I listened to the music for a while, eyeing the extra long donut line, and, basket in hand, decided to peruse the market first. String beans and zucchini called me into one booth, a taste for Greek vegetable stew emerging. Mutsu apples for some applesauce – and two caramel apples to share with Tom later. Round I went, gathering produce and soaking in the sights and scents of the season.
My basket was heavy, my wallet was not, as I stopped to listen to the band one more time. They put down their instruments and smiled to the applause in appreciation for their efforts. The musicians and their music packed up for another day.
I never did get a donut.
I think I’ll come back on their last day, the 30th. Free Stone Soup until they run out on the last day of the market. All the vendors provide the ingredients and a local restaurant makes the soup. Sound good, doesn’t it?