Fall Festivals, Part 1

Many countries have a tradition of the harvest festival, a point we mentioned recently on ESL Podcast 723. Harvest refers to the food you take out of the fields (places where food grows) to sell or eat.  A festival is a celebration, usually with a large group of people. I grew up in the great state of Minnesota, where agriculture (the growing of food) is an important part of the economy.  Each autumn (fall), local community and church organizations sponsor a small celebration (usually called a fall festival), even when no one in the organization is actually a farmer or has a field! Fall festivals are fundraisers for the school, church, or community group. Fundraisers are special events that where a group raises (collects; gets) funds (money) for their group.

I was visiting Minnesota recently and attended the fall festival held by my old high school in Saint Paul, located in what was once a German American part of the city called Frogtown.  I thought I would share some of the activities that you might typically find at one of these very Midwestern events. In Part 1 of this post, we’ll talk about the games and fun activities.  In Part 2, we’ll discuss the kind of food you can eat at a Minnesota fall festival.

Typical at a fall festival (at least in Catholic schools such as the one I attended) is playing a game of chance (luck) called Bingo, a game I discussed in an earlier blog post. The Bingo game I went to at the fall festival was a little different, however. Notice in the photo that they make special bottles of ink to mark your cards. These are used instead of chips (small pieces of paper or plastic) to mark the squares on the card. Of course, this means you need a new, clean paper Bingo card for each game.  Each card costs 25 or 50 cents, and the winner gets a small prize.  I played one game where the prize was a mug (a large glass for drinking beer).  I lost.

Another game of chance is called the Cherry Tree. Several dozen small gifts are put out on display (so people can see them) with numbers next to them (see photo).  You pay $1.00 to get five stapled pieces of paper.  Some of the pieces of paper have a number on them, which matches (is the same as) one of the prize numbers.  If you get that number, you win that prize.  I bought 5 tickets at the festival.  I lost.

My favorite game at a fall festival is the Cake Walk. All of the prizes in this game are – you guessed it – cakes! There are 10 numbers on the floor, arranged (placed) in a circle. One person stands on each number (it costs $1.00 to play).  Music plays and you begin to walk around the circle, stepping from number to number. When the music stops, you stop on the nearest number. Then one of the players picks a number from one to ten from a basket or hat. The person standing on that number wins the cake.  Every game has a winner, and of course there is no skill (knowledge or special expertise) needed to play.  (You can even describe some action in English as being a “cake walk,” which means it is very easy to do). I played the Cake Walk once at the festival (see photo).  I lost.

Enough of me losing! In the next post, I’ll talk about something I did get at the festival – food.


Photo credits: Jeff McQuillan



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24 Responses to Fall Festivals, Part 1

  1. emiliano says:

    So nice Jeff to see you standing on the floor in St. Paul anxious to get
    your prize, a cake.
    Despite you lost I am sure you could tasted a piece of cake from
    some of your friends.
    Was it good?

    Nice to see you once in a photo at the blog.
    You look happy and amused.

    It is nice that you like to share your experiences with us here.
    Thank you.

  2. john says:

    Another interesting article which brought back memories of my childhood. We do have harvest festivals in Austria, though, I think it’s more celebrated in the countryside. I remember having small celebrations when I was a kindergartner. Each autumn, at one evening, all the parents would be invited and we kids had to perform a play, or sing something. After that, there was a buffet (usually open sandwiches). I can’t recall having harvest festivals when I attended elementary school, let alone during high school.

    The concept of the Cake Walk is so adorable, of the three games you described, this is my favorite one.

    P.S. Why can I tell that you didn’t win anything, just by looking at the third picture 😀

  3. elcomandant says:

    I think you enjoyed very much with these games of Fall Festival. I think too, you must be very fortunate in love. At least, in my country exist a saying that it say “fortunate in the love, unfortunate in the game”.

    What it’s also true, I guess, your wife is a good cook. She must cook delicious plates for you, because I can see your belly under your sweater. Unless you are pregnant.

    Anyway, congratulations! Don’t worry about losing in games. You are lucky.


  4. Myo ko ko says:

    I really didn’t notice the guy standing in the cake walk photo was Jeff until I read emiliano’s note!
    For worst, I still had trouble recognizing him in the picture even though I looked at it closely.
    At last, I convinced myself: “Well, it was really Jeff! Couldn’t I get it?! The guy has no hair and is wearing glasses! These clues are enough!” 🙂
    Thanks Jeff for the post.

  5. sara says:

    Dear Dr.jeff thanks for sharing it with us.playing games are always joyful.

  6. Kashif Khan says:

    Jeff, I want to know more of your town where you grew up and the school you went to. I think you must record an English Cafe episode on this. It will be interesting to know what circumstances and situations shaped Jeff McQuillan into such a witty person.

  7. Roberto says:

    But I think Jeff won a lot of games, he is an expert playing cake walk!
    His serenity shows a great experience in the game and I believe, as elcomandant, Jeff has practised very much cake walk at home.
    Fantastic work, Jeff! I like very much what you did in Minnesota and I anxious to know more about the food at the festival.

  8. emiliano says:

    By chance the new book I am reading from my dear author Stephen King
    says something about Minnesota and Minneapolis.
    The plot it is about a man from the same state that Jeff was born but
    this rich man being hurt, old, and divorced he went to live to Florida.
    He has two daughters instead of three and he likes to paint as me
    The title?
    Duma Key
    As for the last three or four years I am trying to read it in English, a
    really difficult task.

    Reading the book I hope to know a little more about MInnesota,
    who knows?

    Do not be so bad boy “el comandant”, Jeff´s belly is flat like
    being a young man of thirty or even less.

  9. Betty says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Jeff, for sharing with us your happy moment at the harvest festival of your old high school. It is very nice to see you again.

    Emiliano has very sharp eyes and spotted Jeff in the picture. Myo Ko Ko is right, it is very hard to know the man in the picture is Jeff. I would not have known it if Emiliano did not tell us about it.

    Yes, I learned about Harvest Festival through my children’s primary school in England. It was some years ago and I had almost forgotten about it until Jeff tells us about it again here today.

    My role in the school’s Harvest Festival was to check all the food cupboards in the kitchen to search for tin foods and dry pasta etc which were non-perishable, and let my children took them to school about a week before the celebration of Harvest Festival. The school told us that the food would go to a local charity after the event. I think the school did not organise something interesting like those we see in this article. Might be only a little prayer in the church? I should ask my children about it when I have a chance next time.

    I don’t think we have Harvest Festival in Hong Kong or China. The wikipedia’s page about Harvest Festival does not have a Chinese version neither.

    To my amazement, the English version of wiki’s Harvest Festival says: “In Asia, the Chinese Moon Festival (Mid-Autumn Festival) is one of the most widely spread harvest festivals in the world”.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think our Moon Festival is to celebrate ‘harvest’, nor to collect food from everyone and give to charity.

    Thanks again, Jeff, I look forward to reading Part 2 and to find out what food you did get at the festival.

  10. emiliano says:

    There are some movies that take place in Minnesota:

    “New in Town”
    A nice comedy with Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick, made in 2009 and it is to have
    a good time seeing how life is in a little village of Minnesota, in contrast with the life in
    Yes, I could recomen it like a comedy with a happy end.

    A very good movie, hard and real, very good made by the Cohen Brothers.

    “North Country”
    Interesting movie about a woman “Charlize Theron” who wants to work in a iron
    mine located in the North of Minnesota.
    As it is natural, a land also a work of men, the gorgeous Charlize is going to have
    lot of problems among so rude men.

    Well,, I think there must be more movies taken place in Minnesota but seeing
    these three you may have an idea of how the land of our dear teacher Jeff, is.

    Stephen King who is living in Main had lived also in Minnesota, so he knows
    a little about the country.
    So incredible cold in winter time, thousand of lakes and full of Irish people
    with their own customs.
    Stephen King use to write about subjects and places he knows previously
    and in this book Duma Key written after his bad accident talks about the
    suffers of a man like him, being alive after given for dead after a dreadful
    car accident….like the one the writer suffers.

    That is all, friends.
    If you want to have an idea of Jeff´s land see the movies and enjoy your
    time, I have seen the three and they are interesting.
    Sorry about my previous note, it is full of mistakes that every one could see.
    May be I was just a little sleepy after taking a little nap.

  11. elcomandant says:

    My dear Emiliano, why do you think I’m bad for saying that Jeff’s belly is a little bloated?. I could say it in a friendly way, or maybe I said it because I am jealous of him due to my belly is bigger.

    To tell you the truth neither one thing nor the other. I admire Jeff because he is really cool and he doesn’t mind what people could think of him, whenever he does a great job, of couse, and you and me are sure he does it. For instance, he sings really really bad, however he sings in many podcats. Needless to say the comic comments he says spontaneously in many occasions. I think all her team will have a funny time when they are working together.

    I said this without meet him. But if I bump Jeff around by chance, it would be my pleasure to invite him to dinner and chat whatever. I’ll love it. Well, we would go at a not very expensive restaurant . I haven’t much money.


  12. Barbara says:

    Thanks Jeff,

    It is nice game not only at fiestival but also at association of friends.

    And I was surprised that your voice sounds younger than your looks.

    But anyway, I am greatly enjoying each episode you & Lucy placed.

  13. Myo ko ko says:

    Be cool! friend, elcomandant,
    As we are using “second language,”
    we should use one of these: ” 😀 🙂 😉 ” in our comments if we are trying to be funny in them.

    By the way,
    Writing this comment, what I can see in my eyes is your big belly that is bigger than Jeff’s. 😉
    How big is yours? 😀 Tell me about it, friend elcomandant? 🙂
    Just kidding you! 🙂 😉 😀

  14. emiliano says:

    elcomandant, of course.
    I am sure about that and agree with you absolutely.

    We Spaniards are more shy and have a bigger ridiculous sense that other people that may have
    a good time doing feasts and humoring about themselves.

    I could only say “Bravo Jeff” you are my hero and you have the bigger humor sense I could imagine
    in a person.

    I was pulling your leg, elcomandant, knowing you were in good disposition to say me just
    what you said.
    I would like to meet you some day if you come to Madrid.
    My best to you and you family dear friend.
    Valencia is a land I really love.


  15. may says:

    hi! Jeff
    How U doing?

    Nice plot, I spotted U from first sight when say “I played the Cake Walk once at the festival (see photo)”

    U R total different when I listen to U in podcast U Look very very different from your voice when, I was think U R thin and tall hahhahaha. any way
    I like ur podcast and ur blog thanks 4 everything u r such a nice humble witty guy U give us knowledge as u can well done.

    I like the games that u play it sound amazing and funny the best one is Cherry tree I like the idea buy piece of paper and win, BUT this game need exaggerate LUCK, Like me i’m not LUCKY one UH barely I won a game SO u sound Like me u play but not wine, u but u keep play.
    The bottom line u have fun when u were play So having fun when u play is the best time ever hahahhahah

    Break A LeG

  16. Talal says:

    @elcomandant , hehe , i was laughing my a$$ off about ur comment , I like ur sense of humor 🙂 , we boys understand each other , but try to avoid talking to older people in that way ^^ ,trust me i am talking from experience . my friend; why u said Jeffs singing is really bad ? i am sorry but, i completely disagree with u about this point .
    take care fella !!

  17. Talal says:

    @Mr.Emiliano , please dont be mad at him ^^, he said it in a friendly way .

  18. Betty says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I promise you Jeff looks much younger than the image in the photo of the Cake Walk.

    If you look at ESLPOD.com’s anniversary videos in the past, you will find that I am telling you the truth.

    You are right Jeff’s sound is young because he is young.

    Best wishes

    P.S. It is easy to find the anniversary videos, please shout if you can’t find them and I can tell you where to find them.

  19. Tania says:

    Hi! “Sometimes the best gain is to lose.”

  20. Tania says:

    Hi! “The better gamester , the worser man.”

  21. Tania says:

    Hi! “Love reason is without reason.”

  22. Tania says:

    Hi! You are trendy in black colour. Why so much sadness in your eyes?
    What did you lose?

  23. Tania says:

    Hi! Last night I saw the movie “The Usual Suspects” with Kevin Spacey on one of our TV channels.
    Indeed, a very good film with an unexpected end.
    I’d like to watch it again to understand it better following the Kevin Spacey’ performance.
    Thank you for your recommendation.

    All the best to you all,


  24. Tania says:

    Hi! Happy Halloween!


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