“I usually have enough chili left over to get a second meal out of it. Not this year.” ~ Ruthanne Delong, Director of Operations
Miss Ruthanne Delong knows how to throw a party. Not only does she know how to throw a party, she knows how to throw the best Fall Festival party this side of the Ohio River. She begins the planning process in July; scheduling the music entertainment, menu, hayrides, and llamas. Yes, llamas.
The Annual Fall Festival event is the pride of the Necco Center. We aren’t ashamed to say that our excitement really begins to build at the sight of the first orange pumpkin rolling through our gate. Grass is cut, fodder shocks are gathered, mums are displayed, and the cooking begins. Oh, the cooking! Miss Ruthanne keeps most of the menu a secret, but everyone knows that she will be preparing her famous white chicken chili and cauliflower salad. Or, at least, she had better if she knows what is good for her.
In the early morning hours, numerous tents are erected on the courtyard to be the future homes of pumpkin painting, lemonade, crafts, prizes, pumpkin toss, and the photo booth. In a few short hours, staff from the Necco Center will man these booths as groups of children eagerly come to take part in each of the activities.
At noon, the dinner bell rings and the courtyard becomes a ghost town as everyone on campus heads to the gym for some wonderful eats. Pulled pork, corn and bean salsa, chili, cornbread, and cobblers line the tables. County Commissioners, guardians, state workers, and families eat, mingle and share in the community feeling of this very special, feel good day. The kids begin to get anxious for the real fun to begin as the adults are still discussing the perfect weather, decorations, and food. Some can’t help but to go back for seconds. It’s that good.
And now for the fun to begin; fire trucks, fireman suits to try on, a real race car to sit in, and did I mention we have llamas? The brave, and even not so brave can’t resist feeding the llamas carrots and biscuits and petting their sweet faces. Many pictures are taken capturing the look on a child’s face feeding an animal for the first time. And hayrides? We got ‘em! Our hayride service doesn’t stop until the last of the children covers the Necco Center property atop a mound of dusty hay bales.
Then it is time to say goodbye until next year. Bellies full, paint on their shirts, prizes in hand, and possibly hay in their hair, our children hug their visitors and return to everyday life. Some can even be spotted smuggling a pumpkin or two back into their cottage. The greatest memento from the greatest day.