Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Webb City Sentinel column - 9/19

You never know what you’re going to find at the market - like a living breathing birthday cake marching from one end to the other.

Wayne Porter, former long-time minister at Webb City’s First Presbyterian Church and passionate volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, was surprised to find last Saturday that he reliving history. His son, John, and daughter, Tammy Graves, and his two sisters plotted a special 80th birthday for him. One that was patterned after his mother’s 80th birthday 22 years ago when she wore a rather remarkable birthday cake costume down Main Street in Nelson, Nebraska.

Unbeknownst to Wayne, his sisters, Darlene Shaw and Phyllis O’Dey, together with Phyllis’ husband Don, secured that costume and brought it to Webb City for his celebration. Wayne suspected nothing when the family wanted to visit the market Saturday. After all, lots of folks bring their out-of-town guests to the market. And he was amiable if perplexed when John led him from the market into the storage barn across the road. That is where the family was laying in wait to slip on the cake costume and candle hat.

We in turn were waiting under the south market pavilion with our band, the Missouri Mountain Gang, who played a rousing bluegrass version of Happy Birthday.

Wayne was a good sport, walking through the market in the getup telling friends, both old and just met, about his mother’s celebration and commenting “this is one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.” Certainly it was a memorable moment for his family and the market and I’m pretty sure that his son John may have a similar surprise waiting for him on his 80th birthday. After all, his children, Wesley and London, were at the market soaking it all in.

By the way, Wayne’s mother, Leona, actually sewed most of the cake costume. It was commissioned by a friend who owned a costume shop and who neglected to indicate the costume’s true purpose. Imagine Leona’s surprise when she learned that she was the special celebrant who was to wear the costume, down Main Street no less. A good sense of humor must run in the Porter family.

And good coping skills, too. It was a weekend of surprises for Wayne. First his sisters show up from Nebraska unannounced at his birthday dinner on Friday, then the market episode Saturday morning, followed by a surprise party that afternoon attended by his family, including his wife Joyce, and many friends. When I dropped by the party, there was Wayne garbed again in his costume recounting the now notorious cake story that he can add to the many other stories lived and retold during a long and productive life.

While we don’t expect to celebrate any 80th birthdays this week (and we probably wouldn’t tell you even if we did – we know how to keep a secret), there will be plenty of good food and community to celebrate. Lunch today is meatloaf, 3-bean salad, corn, tropical fruit cup and drink for $6. Webb City’s own Gospel Strings plays between 11 and 1. Resa Amos will demonstrate her spinning on her spinning wheel at her honey stand.

On Saturday, Ninth Hour performs. You remember them from their terrific performance this summer in Forever Plaid at the downtown theater. They’ll be singing gospel and popular hits from the past. The Thunder baseball team has a bake sale scheduled for Saturday. Breakfast will be cooked up to order until 11 or until the ingredients run out.

Be sure to check the market blog for details on next week.

Next Friday we plan a green bean canning demonstration and a sampling of eggplant Parmesan (yes, our farmers have eggplant in all shapes and sizes). Next Saturday we’ll have free minipumpkins for children to paint courtesy of grower Steve McLaughlin. Suzy and Sammy Scarecrow will make their first appearance at the market.

It’s fall at the market, bring the kids (and adults) out to enjoy the season.