Faith Matters: Not just a church, a community

By BOB ALLEN

Head of Property and Finance, United Church of Bernardston

Published: 05-19-2023 1:51 PM

At the United Church of Bernardston, we have a full-time minister and a parsonage with a longtime passion to support worldwide and local charities, such as the Salvation Army, United Way, North County Cares and Bernardston Kiwanis. And fundraisers are an integral part of a small church.

We do various activities to raise money, including the Golf Tournament in the fall at Northfield Golf Course, the Christmas Bazaar in the winter, and our Roast Beef Suppers which run from October through May. These are not just fundraisers for us, but we consider them fellowship. Money is being raised while fun is being had by all.

But our biggest fellowship and outreach to the community began 45 years ago when a man named Russ Deane thought we should have a flea market. He contacted A.R. Sandri who allowed him to use the Sandri lot on Routes 5 and 10 to begin the endeavor, which was a success.

Bud Streeter came along and wanted to add gas engines called one-lungers. What are one-lungers? These engines run everything from blenders to entire factories and everything in between through a series of belts and pulleys. An amazing thing that should be viewed by all.

As time went on, and popularity grew, a hamburger and hot dog booth were added. Fast forward 45 years, and the Gas Engine Show and Flea Market has become one of the major events of Memorial Day weekend in this area, attracting anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 people to the small town of Bernardston.

We have added a country auction on Friday night, followed by trivia night; a dedicated pie booth serving home-made pies; a dedicated ice cream booth serving Snow’s Ice Cream and our famous K-sticks; a dedicated french fry booth run by the retired owner of Bergie’s Fries; a loaded baked stuffed potato booth now serving chili; and our main booths with hot breakfasts, hamburgers and hot dogs. One of our main attractions is our Ham & Bean Supper on Saturday night. The hams are roasted on an open fire pit all day Saturday and the spit is run by one of our gas engines! The flea market has grown to over 100 spots where you will see crafters, flea marketers, businesses and charities.

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And on the other side of the field we have a three-acre display of gas engines, tractors, antique cars and antique snow mobiles. If it’s old, it’s there. It’s a tradition; some people have been attending for generations. Some come back over and over again throughout the weekend. Last year, we added a tractor pull for kids and two tractor parades.

All in all, we have 25 functions with our event, including our big auction Friday night, followed by trivia night, Bud’s main raffle where you see us set up various stores throughout May, and Church service on Sunday under the big top. There is also tractor and golf cart transportation from the parking lot.

So you ask yourself, how does a small church run such a large event? Because, yes, this is all run by United Church of Bernardston only. But our community supports us immensely as you can tell by our Banner Row and other signage.

We have over 145 business sponsors and over 200 people that volunteer their time to help us run this event. So it is not just a church event, it is a community event.

We hope to see you Memorial Day weekend as we have now settled into our new location at Pratt Field in Bernardston. Come once, come often. Free admission – we just ask for a donation at the gate.

Bring the kids. We keep our food prices low so all families can enjoy the weekend.

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