Sisters Lucia and Claire Surmik, who worked at Emmaus for more than three decades danced away at the tenth Harvest Fest on October 1, with the joy that can only come from being surrounded by good friends and a bountiful harvest. “The Emmaus family throws a wonderful party!” said Sister Lucia.
The Harvest Fest, which this year celebrated a decade since the opening of Emmaus Grove Urban Farm, drew a crowd of volunteers and friends to Emmaus for an afternoon of live music, garden tours, and gratitude on a sunny Sunday.
Sister Valerie Luckey, Director of Emmaus, opened the event by thanking the guests for their hard work and support. “This beautiful space wouldn’t have been possible without the larger community supporting a vision,” she said.
She told the story of how the Grove came to be, thanking the co-founders, Rosemary Gantz and Ellen DiPlacido, as well as Pastor Rick Sprague of Solomon’s Porch, who tithed the land to Emmaus, and Mike Bailey, who has been an integral part of the Grove since 2014 lending his talent as co-coordinator with Ellen DiPlacido. Sister Val also noted the many donations from local churches, families, and businesses, the Herbert Foundation, as well as the hours upon hours of volunteer efforts, that have gone into the garden over the past ten years and have made it such a beautiful and fruitful space. Over twenty-thousand pounds of produce have been produced in the Grove, given out freely to those who come to Emmaus for groceries each week.
That remarkable abundance, hard work, and generosity were celebrated over the course of the afternoon. Guests enjoyed a s'mores-making station, raffles with a wide variety of prizes–many donated by friends of Emmaus, and of course, the music of Tennessee Back Porch, who have played at every Harvest Fest. Amid the singing and dancing, volunteer gardeners gave tours of the Grove, showing off beans, herbs, eggplants, and more, and offering tastes of the surplus cherry tomatoes and basil.
When Emmaus Grove was dedicated back 2013, those who gathered prayed: “Gracious God of the Cosmos, we ask your blessing on this Emmaus Grove.
May it be bountiful! A reflection of your lavishness... Of your overflowing richness...of your care. May it be beautiful! A reflection of the elegance of your creation...from the sprig of parsley to the planetary design of our universe. It is good...all good. Gracious God of the Cosmos, we ask your blessing on all who work here, learn here, rest and reflect here, and most especially on all those who will enjoy the delicious and sumptuous harvest. May this Emmaus Grove be a place of bounty and beauty for body and soul.”
Ten years later, those words were repeated in blessing over the garden, and all those who attended this year's Harvest Fest can say that the prayer has been answered with a resounding “yes.”
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Photos, top to bottom:
1. Emmaus Board Member and former Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper dances with Sister Claire Surmik.
2. Emmaus Director, Sister Valerie Luckey (center), with Emmaus Board Member and volunteer Mary Hoffman (left) and volunteer Colleen Hammon
3. Right to left, Grove Volunteers Rosemary Gantz, Tony Gilmore, Deb Totzke, and Mike Bailey
4. Mayor Joe Schember enjoyed the Fest!
5. Emmaus Administrative Assistant Margaret Kloecker (left) and Benedictine Sister Dianne Sabol handle the grilling.