The ingredients of a successful community-sponsored antiques show, a recipe supplied by Nancy Mandragos, one of the organizers of the St. Thomas Parish Antiques Show, opening for its 25th season tomorrow:
500 pounds of turkey;
150 pounds of country ham;
550 pounds of beef barbecue;
Five cases of hot dogs;
300 pieces of fried chicken;
600 pounds of potatoes;
10 gallons of fruit salad;
20,000 cups of soft drink;
An acre of antiques.
Mandragos, of Upper Marlboro, is in charge of the menu for the show, staged every September for three days at the Edelen Brothers Warehouse on Marlboro Pike in Upper Marlboro. It takes the combined efforts of 250 families to hold the affair, she said, and over the years, several generations have grown up helping with the work.
The show, which draws visitors from all over the area and antique dealers from up and down the East Coast, is organized annually by two Episcopal churches, the St. Thomas Parish in Croom and the Chapel of the Incarnation in Brandywine. Volunteers come from all over the Upper Marlboro community, organizers said.
The St. Thomas Parish Antiques show features 79 antique dealers, with an emphasis on furniture. Also for sale are textiles, silver, toys and prints. Demonstrations of rug braiding, dry-flower arranging and the making of copies of antique dolls are planned. The show is expected to draw between 16,000 and 18,000 visitors, organizers said.
The first show, 25 years ago, was held to raise money to build a new rectory for St. Thomas', said Lisa Raffetto, wife of rector Edward C. Raffetto. "The old one had been eaten up by termites . . . . The rectory was paid for within a few years, but the tradition continued."
The two churches now use the proceeds for special projects. One year the parishoners bought a rider lawnmower for a home for unwed mothers; another year they gave respiratory equipment to a hospice. This year they hope to use the funds to help renovate a rectory for the Chapel of the Incarnation.
Laddie Townshend, the father of six boys aged 13 to 26 and one of the chairmen of the show, says his sons have been helping out since they were old enough to do something.
"The kids used to look forward to the Friday of the show because they knew they didn't have to go to school that day," the 49-year-old Brandywine native said. "Now, even though the oldest one is out and doing his own thing -- he's a computer programmer in Washington -- he still comes home for it."
Last weekend, about 30 volunteers helped move tobacco out of the acre-size warehouse, swept the floors and set up 525 tables and 530 chairs. A slight scent of tobacco is always in the air at the shows, Mandragos said. Unless you're allergic to it, it kind of adds to the atmosphere, she said.
Helen Straub and her family have helped with the show for 24 years. Straub is in charge of the contracts with the antiques dealers, who she says have spread the word among themselves that the show draws well.
"I have one dealer from Houston who didn't get into the show and who's willing to wait till this week in the hopes of a cancellation," Straub said.
Straub says she doesn't know how to explain the community's enthusiasm for the show. "But I do know that it's the one thing that keeps the members of the parish together," she said. "It's the one thing we all do together. It also goes beyond members of our parish to friends of the parish. A number of people who help with the show are not members of either parish."
"It's rewarding and uplifting work," said Catherine Pinkney, 71, who takes time off from her job as a teacher's aide to help with the show. "It's really a beautiful affair having all these folks work together at the warehouse.
"We all get along fine now," said Pinkney, who is black. "But there was a time when I couldn't go into the church. They didn't even want our money in the early days.
"But eventually that changed. We all get along like one big family now." About 10 percent of the parishioners of St. Thomas' today are black, officials said.
The show will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3. Directions to 15501 Marlboro Pike: Rte. 4 to Rte. 301 north to the first light, turn left. Warehouse is at the left.