RANDOLPH – When most people think of autumn they think of beautiful trees, falling leaves, cider, pumpkins, apples and maybe even burning piles of leaves. In the mid-1800s, people living on farms in the Mid-West began a tradition of celebrating when the harvest was completed by hosting a hoedown. The name probably came from the fact that the work was done and they could set down their spades or hoes. The hoedown was often held in a barn where square dancing took place and ample food was provided.
Recently the Activities Committee of East Randolph United Methodist Church hosted a Harvest Hoedown in a barn owned by Harry and Cathy Uhl on Vollentine Road in Randolph. Even though the barn was built about the time hoedowns came into being and was purchased by Cathy’s grandfather Fred Blood 100 years ago, the condition isn’t what one may envision. The Uhl family has fond feelings for their property and use it for as many church and community functions as Cathy and their grown children can dream up. Uhl goes along with their ideas and tries to build or modify whatever is needed.
For approximately 30 years, the family has hosted a Fourth of July celebration that is attended by well more than 100 people. When daughter Tammy was planning her marriage to Branden Johnson several years ago, she wanted to marry on the family property. The family, along with friends and neighbors, built an outdoor sanctuary and a small bridge, groomed the woods and planted flowers to prepare for a beautiful celebration.
The Uhls’ youngest child and only son, Cody, and his bride, Lindsey, had a church wedding a couple of years ago, but planned a reception in the family barn. Because the lower floor of the facility was used by Harvey Blood, Cathy’s father, for his 40 dairy cattle, the upper floor had both loose and baled hay, which was removed along with old furniture that had been stored there. Several hay shoots were removed, a section of the floor was leveled with the original boards saved, clear white bulbs were strung connected to new wiring, and a flight of stairs with an outside entrance was built in the back. Cleaning, decorating and an elevated DJ station was built. Since then the barn has been used for two more receptions and has become loved by the community, especially the people of ERUMC who have held summer services followed with a chicken barbecue the last two summers, a sit down harvest dinner in 2012 and now the Harvest Hoedown.
The hoedown participants, dressed in flannel shirts, jeans, straw hats and whatever they deemed fit for the event, showed up on a cool September evening to a barn decorated with several cornstalks, sunflowers, pumpkins and fall-themed decorations.
The tables were adorned with brown tablecloths that held fall centerpieces of hydrangeas, small apples on branches and Japanese lanterns, thistle and small sunflowers in mason jars tied with strips of burlap. Red bandanas had been placed beneath the jars. Rocking chairs and bales of hay provided seating. Metal tractor wheels and milk cans from the original farm added to the rustic theme. Food stations, set up in various locations, had signs with catchy names pointing out what was located in the designated areas. Near the entrance was the “Vittles for Snacking” area which consisted of a table that held a basket filled with cellophane-wrapped candy apples and a platter of apple slices with a bowl of delicious dip in the center.
A barrel with fall-themed trail mix and another barrel holding pickles were placed in close proximity. Whole apples were provided, as well. The “Good Old Corn Bread and Soup” station held just that, squares of warm corn bread and crock-pots full of chili and corn chowder. Hot dogs and toppings, sloppy joe fixings, ears of sweet corn, baked beans and a large roaster full of salt potatoes were found at “Finger Likin Fixins.” Doughnuts, pumpkin cookies, apple and pumpkin pies and warm apple crisp were situated in the “Sweets and Confections” area. The “Watering Hole” held cider, hot chocolate and coffee that were served in mason jars and mugs. A DJ played music from assorted genres and a square dance was held approximately every half hour.
The children enjoyed finding coins hidden in a large pile of sawdust and later young and old participated in a hay ride where glow sticks were given. An impromptu handstand walking contest took place with an 11-year-old girl, a 30-something-year-old woman and her 60-something-year-old father-in-law participating. Fun was had by all.