Autumn On Parade. The first full weekend of October was long ago set aside to celebrate the beauty of our part of the Rock River Valley and showcase the hand mades, home mades and home growns of our county. The festival pulls in thousands from the suburbs as well as Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin who come to enjoy a “quaint” celebration and take part in the weekend festivities. They come to experience a little of the “small town” life; country scenery -- the burnished reds, oranges and yellows of the color palette from which the trees paint the landscape along the river.
While thousands mill through the town square shopping the various craft booths full of seasonal decorations, hand made soaps, baked goods, food booths, apple cider and the like, I am standing in the Miz Bee Haven booth with Cindy and my “B” man Jeff or Patti offering samples of the most extraordinary creamed honey ever whipped; answering questions about the honey and selling . . . you guessed it, the honey. Over the years we have cultivated our regulars. There is the darling little Italian lady who stands around 4’ 8”. Her hair is a soft beautiful white, always worn in a bun. Her dress is straight from the old world covered by a simple cardigan and her shoes are the stereotypical black orthopedic tie shoes with a small chunky heel. So perfect are they for her diminutive size, I cannot imagine her wearing anything else. She doesn’t speak any English and always buys a full gallon, every year. She makes her way to the booth always on her way out of the festival so she doesn’t have to carry the gallon with her while she shops. She smiles at us, bows just a bit and in the most melodic of voices, utters a heartfelt, “grazie.” We love her.
There was the local attorney who, from what I knew, never really practiced law. He was a slight man with fine features who was always seen around town walking his two well groomed shelties wearing a proper wool topcoat, double buttoned and a Sherlock Holmes hat – even in the summer. Year in, year out he would stop by the booth and inquire if our honey was pasteurized. And we always, always, told him, “no” before he bought his same order every year. He has since passed, but perhaps someone will fill the void he leaves.
“Is this honey local?” Yes. “Do you make the honey yourself?” No, the bees make the honey . . . we steal it. “Do you have Orange Blossom honey?” Do we have orange trees here in Illinois? “Does the creamed honey need to be refrigerated?” No, it is simply honey that has been spun. But we smile and answer the questions and every year we sell out of stock. Miz Bee Haven honey is that good.
This year I will not be at the booth set up on the courthouse square. I will be in Michigan with all of my high school peeps marking our 30th year of surviving beyond high school. I’ll miss laughing with Cindy and Patti. I will miss watching Jeff tie the jars with raffia while kibitzing with fellow bee keepers and I will miss the little old Italian lady. But, I cannot wait to see people I have not seen in 30 years. Life is good.