Baskets Of Joy

MAYVILLE – The banquet hall of Mayville’s Chautauqua Suites was abuzz with hundreds of community members in attendance for the 10th annual Spring Ahead basket fair Saturday.

The event, which kicked off at 11 a.m., is one of the St. Susan Center’s annual fundraisers; providing it with the means to fulfill its mission of feeding Jamestown’s hungry.

This year, local businesses, churches and community members donated approximately 133 baskets catered to people with all kinds of interests. Each basket up for bid contained up to $200 worth of practical and household items for children and adults, ranging from a miniature greenhouse to a luxurious lawn chair to bottles of wine. Attendees were invited to purchase auction tickets – $7 for 10 and grand prize tickets for $10 – and distribute their tickets accordingly until 1:45 p.m.

Grand prizes with a combined value of $1,500 were also available, and were donated by Jamestown Savings Bank, who co-sponsored the event with Chautauqua Suites. The top three grand prizes included: a Philips LCD 50-inch flat screen TV, an Apple iPad 3rd Generation and a Kindle Fire with a $200 Amazon gift card.

Door prizes included: a Keurig coffee maker, also donated by Jamestown Savings Bank; a men’s and a lady’s Pulsar watch, donated by Carlson’s Jewelers in Jamestown; and a complete bathroom vanity with a sink from Lakewood’s Smart By Design. Drawings for each basket and prize commenced at 2 p.m.

According to Sue Colwell, executive director of St. Susan Center, the amount of prizes and their combined value has increased in conjunction with the funds that the center raises from year to year.

“(The basket fair) has just snowballed over the years,” she said. “I think they raised a couple thousand dollars the first year, and last year, they raised $11,000. And people love it. We make it a reasonably priced event so a lot of people can come here, and they like to support the center.

“This a lot of fun, but it’s really like planning a wedding,” Colwell said, stating that planning for the event began in November. “Just like everything else, we couldn’t do it without the community. It’s all because of the community, and it’s overwhelming to me to see all of this. So today is important, but so are the other 364 days this year. And all of the proceeds go back to St. Susan Center, we have very little cost.”

Colwell said that the event averages approximately 450 people each year, and many have made a tradition of it. One such individual is Judy Johnson, a Busti resident.

“It’s a worthwhile organization, and I just wanted to help them out because they do so much in the community,” said Johnson, who has been attending the basket fair since it’s beginnings at St. James Parochial School in Jamestown. “St. Susan’s is a great organization, and anyone that can support it should. And I just like to do that.”

There was also entertainment and activities available for children who may not shared the adults’ interest in the auction. Rainbow the Clown was on hand to provide face pa and balloon animals, while Apron Lady produced treats and gifts from her pockets. Coloring books also proved to be an engaging activity for several children.

St. Susan Center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and 2-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The center serves, on average, more than 300 meals per day over the course of 361 days each year. Last year, the center served more than 98,000 meals, while 2011’s 95,000 meals indicated an 11 percent increase over 2010’s amount.

To learn more about the St. Susan Center and more upcoming events, visit www.stsusancenter.org.