GOSHEN — They came, ate pancakes, gobbled haystacks and bought quilts.
It rained at times, but no matter. The souls who made their way to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds on Saturday for the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale — volunteers and attendees — wouldn’t be deterred.
“Very good,” said Tony Woodruff of Cutler, offering a thumbs-up as he chowed down on flapjacks at the pancake breakfast in building 415, the open-sided structure where swine are exhibited at the 4-H fair each summer. “Nice way to start a chilly morning.”
Byron Yoder of Goshen, manning the tent where the sausages to accompany the pancakes are made, lamented, jokingly, the arrival of haystacks — piled-high concoctions made of eggs, spuds, meat and more — as a breakfast offering. “They keep adding options and we’re seeing pancakes and sausage are going down,” he said.
Over in one of the fairgrounds’ commercial exhibit halls, an auctioneer spoke a mile a minute, selling donated quilts to the public, one of the central events of the relief sale. A few offered bids, while many just watched the action, drank coffee and ate pie, for sale in one of the building’s far corners.
“We’re just here to watch. They’ve got a lot of beautiful ones,” said Lorene Bowser of Goshen, on hand with husband Jack.
It was too early to tell Saturday exactly how much the relief sale, which started Friday, would yield. Now in its 45th incarnation, it’s held each year to generate funds for the Mennonite Central Committee in its efforts to feed and help others around the world.
“We’re really excited,” Kent Miller, who helped organize the event, said Saturday morning. “It feels like people are being generous, maybe even a little more generous than last year.”
Last year’s relief sale generated $340,984, according to Elkhart Truth archives, down from around $360,000 in 2010 and 2009.
Aside from the quilt auction, there are antique and toy auctions, food booths and much, much more, spread across the fairgrounds. Just this year, a silent auction was added to the slate of activities.
“It’s been an exciting addition,” Yoder said.
Maybe it’s his job to be upbeat, but even the occasional cloudbursts Saturday didn’t faze Yoder. “It doesn’t usually dampen the spirits, it just makes us a bit more soggy,” he said.
The draw for those attending the sale varies widely. In all, organizers expected 15,000 to 20,000 visitors to come, spread over Friday and Saturday.
“Everyone has their own thing that they want to see here,” said Skye Funnell of Galien, Mich., eating pancakes with Woodruff.
Maynard Miller of Goshen, eating pancakes down a few rows from Funnell, mentioned the apple butter and cheese typically for sale.
Daryl Yoder of Goshen, who was volunteering in the crafts building, mentioned the dinner haystack he ate on Friday, made of layers of cracker crumbs, rice, lettuce meat and more. “They just keep stacking it up,” he said.
Mary Short of Goshen, who goes to church with Daryl Yoder, noted a high school friend she ran into during the pancake breakfast Saturday. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the relief sale, getting to see people,” she said.