Clam chowder, gnomes, and plants star at Wesley United Methodist Church summer fair

Aug 1, 2020

Crafters, chefs, and artists gathered at the Wesley United Methodist Church’s annual summer fair on Saturday, August 1 -- the first event of its kind in Wareham during the pandemic.

A slow-but-steady crowd of masked visitors perused wares and ordered lunch to go. The bake sale table and cups of Denise Fisher’s famous clam chowder were especially big hit.

“It’s been nice,” said Pastor Ginny Doran. “A good group of people came through.”

One parishioner said that the fair had been busiest when it first opened and again at lunch, with many people returning once they saw the church’s menu and smelled the food cooking. Fisher’s clam chowder (which many people ask for by name) was the star, but the hot dogs, hamburgers, and strawberry shortcake were also big hits. 

Fisher said that she learned her chowder recipe when she worked in restaurants in the eighties, and it is a staple at the church’s summer and Christmas fairs. Usually, she makes lobster bisque as well, but forewent it this year due to uncertainty about how many people would come.

The kids in the church’s Sunday School program were selling plants to raise money to buy bat houses. The church has a number of bats that live around (and sometimes in) the building. Doran said that the church has had bats in the belfry. 

The Sunday School kids learned about bats and their role in the ecosystem -- including their taste for mosquitos -- and wanted to help them out. The Sunday School always raises money for a particular cause at each fair, and chose bats as their beneficiaries this summer.

Nancy Howlett had several dozen of her signature fleece gnomes for sale. Howlett, who lived in West Wareham for decades before moving to Fall River, said that she usually sells her gnomes and ponchos at 35 fairs each summer. 

The church fair was only her fourth of the summer. 

“I’m usually in Onset for the month of August,” Howlett said. The Blues Fest, Cape Verdean Festival, and Chalk-Full-of-Fun Fest are some of her favorite events.

Howlett began making fleece gnomes by accident. She makes spiral-wrapped bracelets, and had been using a Patriots-themed gnome to display them on. People kept asking to buy the gnome, and she eventually began making them to sell. Now, she said, many people have given her gnomes a home. 

The gnomes have tall pointed hats and fluffy beards or long braids. Many are accessorized with fake flowers, sparkling wings, or, in one case, little grapes. Each has its own name. 

Howlett said the flowers are her favorite accessory -- “I think I’m a closet florist.”

She also sews fleece ponchos, which are popular in the winter, and began making masks in March. Initially she sewed a few masks for herself, but after several of her neighbors in her apartment building asked about them, she set up a table and sold them in the lobby. 

Elizabeth Soares of Bourne was selling her resin art at the fair. It was her first time attending, and she said that it was “nice to have a day out while following the guidelines.” 

She makes resin suncatchers and pieces to hang on the wall, mostly featuring shells she collects on vacations to Florida.

“It gives me something to do, and I can sell them for a reasonably low price,” she said.

In the last few days, she completed her first resin-adorned multi-paned glass window. Each pane has a different scene: two sailboats made of seaglass float in the center while seaglass waves arc through other panes. Seashells and little glass flowers adorned the other panes. 

The church may or may not hold its winter fair this year.