State Rep. Vernon G. Smith of Gary serves Dee Simmons, also of Gary, a healthy helping of food during the 21st annual Harvest Feast at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Gary, Ind., on Nov. 16, 2012. | Jeff Addison~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:46AM
State Rep. Vernon G. Smith’s 21st annual Harvest Feast brought a standing-room-only crowd Friday to New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Gary.
Smith sponsors the event to honor his mother, the late Rev. Julia E. Smith of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and his aunt, the late Magnolia Allen. It begins with a concert and praise, then concludes with a homemade feast.
Smith said while growing up, his mother bought the best fruits and vegetables for the feast.
“The church ladies would take my mother all over Lake County to find the unblemished fruits and vegetables because she wanted to have the best laid at the altar,” Smith said. “And when she got home, she’d wash and pray over each fruit and vegetable. I’m not talking a rinse and a quick prayer; she’d bless every piece.
“The harvest is the first fruits. The Harvest Feast is about praising and being thankful for what you have.”
Those attending gathered in the church’s basement banquet hall for a program filled with songs and gratitude for another day and another chance to enjoy fellowship at the special event.
Smith also honored and acknowledged families and ancestors: “We honor those who have been a bridge for us, those whose shoulders we are standing on. Those who did not vote in this presidential election do not understand the sacrifices our fathers, our mothers, grandparents, those who lost blood and life for our right to vote. Because of them, we can vote, go to college and continue our path to greatness.”
The audience clapped and shouted to live performances by area singers and groups Antoine Robinson, Tamilla Calloway and Ce Ce and Company.
Afterward, many lined up for the feast — turkey and dressing, fried chicken, roast beef, corn pudding, greens, cabbage, yams and more, with an array of desserts.
Lorene Millard-Laws of Gary attended with her grandson, Kemon Holmes, 6. His grandfather helps with the feast.
“This is my second time coming,” she said. “The food is great and the singing is great.”
Smith said he was happy to see the basement overflow.
“This is the biggest crowd I’ve seen in a little while,” he said.