Saturday was fair day at the Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Alexandria. The school's cluster of red barns was busy with children getting their faces painted and playing games, and with grown-ups seeking bargains.
A few miles down the road, the senior citizens of Arlington's Claridge House were holding their third annual fall bazaar, an event that's lively and fun regardless of how much money is raised.
At the Vienna Community Center, the annual Oktoberfest was a far smaller version of the Munich festival that began in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to his bride, Princess Theresa von Sachsen-Holdburghausen.
This Oktoberfest was staffed by Girl Scouts and local craftsmen, but the bratwurst smelled as good as the stuff you buy in Munich's huge beer tents.
And then there were the church bazaars, like the one held at the First Christian Church of Falls Church to raise money for Sunday School classes.
These four bazaars, in four communities, were just a few of the pickings in Virginia last weekend. Whether it's sponsored by a school, a senior citizens apartment complex, a community center or a church, and whether it makes a lot of money or a little, the fall bazaar has become an institution, an event that brings with it community closeness and participation.
At the Burgundy Farm School fair, Cheryl Priest, 32, of Southeast Washington described the event as "very special. I wouldn't miss it for anything." Both she and her child, who once attended the private, cooperatively run school, have attended every year since 1978.
Held each fall to raise money for the school's scholarship fund, the fair always opens with a Friday night auction for parents and continues Saturday with country dancing, games, a French cafe with quiche and wine, pumpkins, a book sale and other activities.
According to organizers Bob and Sally Scott, the event -- which is put on by the school's 255 pupils and their parents -- has raised between $8,000 and $10,000 in past years.
Molly Herman, 12, a pupil at the school, spent the day teaching other children how to make clay flutes and "spending a lot of money. I like it because all my friends are here," she explained.
Loretta McDonald, a 77-year-old resident of the Claridge House apartment building for the elderly, and many of her friends take part in their Arlington bazaar each year by selling the hand-painted scarves they make in art classes sponsored by the complex. Resident manager Rene Lambiasi, who wore a pumpkin suit on bazaar day, said the proceeds will fund dances, parties, luncheons and Irish teas for Claridge House's 300 independent tenants.
On other weekends "we might go to a church bazaar to buy glassware or jewelry," McDonald said. "We go to all the bazaars we can."
At the Vienna Oktoberfest, Pam Endter "carved" pumpkins out of bits of orange and gold cloth, which she'll sell at different bazaars each weekend until November. "Then I'll sell quilted Christmas trees and wreaths," said the 30-year-old Fairfax resident.
Fall seems to be an ideal time for bazaars because people are looking for handmade Christmas gifts, the pumpkin and apple harvests have begun, "and it's just a nice time of year," said Endter, who paid $15 to set up her pumpkin stand in a field across from the community center.
Inside, two schoolteachers from the Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna spread out their handmade Christmas ornaments and pebble animals, produced during summer vacations and nights spent watching television.
"It's just a hobby for us," said Fay Morrisson, who has been selling her crafts along with colleague Polly Shadyac for two years.
At this particular fair, vendors are free to keep any money they make, but some, like Irvin Poole, 52, who sells "Southern Bell" wind chimes for the Tysons Corner Lions Club, will return the money to local community groups.
If the First Christian Church fall bazaar is a classic church fund-raiser, Alice Easter, 53, of Arlington is a clasic fund-raiser organizer.
"We've raised over $14,000 for the church in the past three years, enough to renovate this hall," said Easter, chairman of the church board. She began publicizing the bazaar in August, notifying vendors and signing up volunteers.
Flea markets, also held during the year, usually raise as much as $2,000 because all the items are donated. This fall's bazaar probably will pull in only about $500, Easter said, because the vendors, who pay $15 for display space, keep all they earn. The church earns money on the vendors' fees and on food sold at its own booth.
How much the vendors earn, Easter said, depends on them. "If they sit back on their chairs, they won't sell much of anything."
By late afternoon, as the bazaar was winding down, Easter had sold most of the antiques she had brought.
And it was almost time to begin planning the next fund-raiser.