RIDGELY — It started as a glorified bake sale to raise funds for the two historic churches of the parish, but the annual Holiday Bazaar of St. Benedict/St. Elizabeth Catholic Parish has grown into a major event in the life of this small Eastern Shore congregation.

The bazaar celebrated its 50th year on Friday, Nov. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 10, in the parish hall in Ridgely.

Local organizations and vendors, along with volunteers from the parish, set up small shopping areas displaying holiday-themed merchandise in the church’s parish hall, along with vendors selling an assortment of baked goods.

Silent auctions, raffles, baked goods for sale and a visit from Santa were other highlights at the church on Central Avenue in Ridgely.

About 30 vendors spanned the entire parish hall during the bazaar to raise funds for the parish, which comprises two Catholic churches: St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Denton and St. Benedict in Ridgely.

Golden Volunteer V.I.P.s who were part of the bazaar’s earliest years, or who had logged significant volunteering hours, were honored at the bazaar. Marlene Hammer Hayman, 81, became involved when her mother, Dorothy Hammer, asked her to bake a cake for the “big bake table.”

“Whatever my mother told me to bake, I baked — and it was always a pineapple upside-down cake,” Hayman said.

Since then, the bazaar has evolved into a major event that has included many elements over the years, including performances by the North Caroline High School marching band, hayrides and activities for youngsters and a crab cake dinner.

A Chesapeake chicken dinner with two seatings was held on Friday, and on Saturday, activities included the parish market, a festive silent auction with theme baskets and a large white elephant table chaired by Pat Centofante.

The first bazaar in 1968 was organized by the Blessed Virgin Mother Ladies’ Sodality.

Parish priests over the years have been front and center during the bazaar, including the current pastor, the Rev. John Gabage, who has served St. Benedict/St. Elizabeth Parish since 2015.

Tom Lough, co-chairman of the bazaar, along with Linda Schirmer and Donald King, said the event is a great place to showcase the positives of Ridgely’s community involvement.

“It’s not only Catholics that come here; it’s all people. Whether they go to church or not, they’re welcome,” Lough said.

He said the money raised from the bazaar will be used to do minor repairs on the building. “We do different things for the church to keep it running, basic expenses for the church,” Lough said.

“There’s heat systems needed, cooling systems needed, electrical work updated. All that stuff costs a lot of money,” he said.

Lough, who has participated in the holiday bazaar for the past 12 years, said the community as a whole always responds positively to support the bazaar.

For Lough, the holiday bazaar is his opportunity to serve.

“It’s just me giving back to the community and the church,” Lough said. “I’ve been blessed, so why not give it back?”

In past years, the 5K Run and Walk for the “Well of It” was held during the bazaar. While the date and location will be different this year, the purpose remains the same — to raise funds for Lifetime Wells International, parishioner Ken Wood’s well-drilling mission in Africa.

This year’s 5K Run and Walk for the “Well of It” will be held Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at Hunter’s Oak Golf Course, 500 Amberly Farm Lane, Queenstown.

For more information about the parish, visit beparish.com.

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