The Harvest Fair at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church has been a fair like none other for a variety of reasons for more than 50 years.
But the best reason is that the event, sponsored by the Presbyterian Women group of the church this weekend, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years -- not for themselves, but for local and international nonprofit organizations.
But as amazing as that is, there are other reasons that make the annual fair special, such as the variety and amount of goods and the popular mushroom sandwiches with ingredients from a well-guarded secret recipe.
Judi Juselius, co-organizer with Lucy Monteleone, said Harvest Fair was created by Fox Chapel officials during World War II.
"Originally, it was to sell the vegetables from the victory gardens. It became so popular, that they couldn't manage it anymore and passed it on to the church," she said. The church has held the fair annually since 1954 except for a couple of recent years when the church was being renovated.
Mrs. Juselius said nonprofit organizations apply for funds, which are generated by proceeds from the fair. The women's group gets together and decides what organization receives money and how much.
Among the organizations that have benefited from the fair are Hosanna Industries, the Sharpsburg Food Pantry, Bethlehem Haven, Aspinwall Meals on Wheels, East Liberty Family Health Center and a church and preschool in Kirkuk, Iraq.
"One of our members lived in Kirkuk until she was 14. Her father was a Presbyterian minister there doing mission work, so we support that church," she said.
Last year, the fair raised nearly $54,000 -- $4,000 higher than the usual amount.
The women of the church come together to organize, clean and prepare for the sale. They arrange similar items together such as jewelry, clothing, kitchen and garden items, furniture, antiques and while elephant items.
Some of the areas are assigned special names. She said the book area is called Bob's Bookstore because "we have a gentleman, Bob Blackmore, who arranges all of the books and even alphabetizes them."
They also sell baked goods, grilled chicken, and of course, the mushroom sandwiches.
"I don't even know the recipe," Mrs. Juselius said.
Items not sold are donated to other organizations that come in after the sale and take them. Any other items left are donated to Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul. "We donate everything," Mrs. Juselius said.
But the event isn't just about the money raised, said the Rev. Chris Taylor, pastor of the church.
"It is also the outreach aspect. We provide good quality goods at very reasonable rates so families that might not be able to buy things can come here and get really great bargains. That is the part that I really love," he said.
Mrs. Juselius echoed Rev. Taylor's sentiments.
"I had a young dad who said they had just had a baby and this was the only way they would be able to afford to buy everything the baby needed," she said.
Rev. Taylor said he also enjoys watching the fellowship of his church members.
"I love to see all of the families at the fair and to see the fellowship of our women who put this all together. They work so hard and develop these wonderful bonds. It is so much fun to see," he said.
The fair hours are 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the church, 384 Fox Chapel Road.
Admission is $5 Friday. Admittance is free on Saturday.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.