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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kids get into spirit of Fall Festival; Yearly event raises funds for Relay for Life and the Sharing Bucket

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ten-year-old Shaina Carpenter chats with 5-year-old Jada Stokes as she delicately removes old fingernail polish from the girl's nails. Carpenter, 10, of Cherryvale, has been practicing her manicure skills for the past year, hoping to raise a little money during Fall Festival, an annual benefit for Relay for Life and the Sharing Bucket, held on the Simmons farm.

Carpenter said she had been there with her school, and last year while attending the festival, decided she wanted to become a little more involved.

"I came here last year with my mom and I thought it would be cool to do something," Carpenter said.

Eden Cazares, 2, gets a piece of cotton candy from her babysitter, Meredith Sewell during Fall Festival on Saturday at the Simmons family farm.
(Laurie Sisk/Tribune)
So Carpenter set about perfecting her manicure skills for "Nails By Shaina" and last Saturday joined a couple dozen other booths for the annual event just east of Fort Scott.

Fall Festival began six years ago, the brainchild of Simmons' daughter, Kristie Maycumber. Maycumber thought it would be nice to have a pumpkin patch and open it to the community. Simmons, who lost her father and mother, Virgil and Lola Wiggans, to cancer knows the struggles families fighting cancer must go through.

"Once you are touched with cancer you just want to do everything you can to help those involved," Simmons said.

Shaina Carpenter, 10, of Cherryvale, gives a manicure to Jada Stokes, 5, Capaldo, during the Fall Festival on Saturday at the Simmons Farm. Carpenter attended last year's Fall Festival and decided to take a more active part this year.
(Laurie Sisk/Tribune)
"It's something we thought we could do for our relay (Relay for Life) team, which is St. John's United Methodist Church," organizer Lavetta Simmons said. "We were going to run the pumpkin patch for our relay team. So it kind of materialized out of Relay. We have relayed as long as it has been in Fort Scott, we think."

Simmons said Fall Festival has evolved -- and grown -- a little every year. From it's founding threesome, Simmons, Maycumber and Joy O'Neal, a cancer survivor herself, said the festival has raised anywhere from $1,500 its first year to $7,500 last year and involves scores of volunteers.

"It just keeps growing," Simmons said. "First it was Relay for Life Fall Festival and it was that way for the first couple of years. All three of us (herself, her daughter and O'Neal) realized through Relay that we needed to do something to help locally."

Lucius James, 3, makes a new friend at the petting zoo on Saturday during Fall Festival at the Simmons family farm.(Laurie Sisk/Tribune)
So with that thought in mind, the trio set out to begin something they call the "Sharing Bucket."

"The Sharing Bucket stays 100 percent local to help our cancer survivors," Simmons said. "We three relayed together, we were all captains and co-captains and then we got our heads together and decided we need to take care of our own people, so that's where the Sharing Bucket came about."

What started six years ago with a pumpkin patch has turned into a day full of fundraising, food and fun for kids of all ages with about 25 booths for food and crafts, plus a petting zoo.

"When we took that idea to the Relay meeting six years ago, every team said 'Oh, yes and we can do our own thing.' Each team that does their own thing, that team gets their own money -- 100 percent, for Bourbon County Relay for Life 2013," Simmons said.

Each year brings something a little new as more people get involved in Fall Festival.

"This year, we've added the pulled pork, the guys called us wanting to do it for sandwiches," Simmons said. "We try to add something each year."

Also new this year, the Simmons farm was host to a group of alpacas from the Sunflower Alpaca Farm and a chance at a quilt, handmade by Ruth Ellsworth of Cherryvale.

Simmons said if you missed the events at Fall Fest, chances for the quilt may still be purchased.

"The chances will be ongoing until Dec. 4, then that money goes 100 percent to the Sharing Bucket," Simmons said. "Anybody that would like to see the quilt or have it in their business or church can call me. (620-224-8070)."

Simmons said people also may mail a check and she will put their chances in for them.

"It would be a great item just in time for Christmas," Simmons said.

Though Saturday is "show time for Simmons and her army of volunteers, the festival actually begins the preceding week, when the family opens their farm to throngs of school-age children on field trips.

"The week prior, we have had different schools that bring classes out," Simmons said. "It basically starts on the Tuesday the week before the Fall Festival. I tell them before they come to bring four dollars. I tell them it is Fall Festival for Relay for Life and for the Sharing Bucket. Then I ask them if they know anybody who has cancer, and of course, they all do because everybody does and then I say 'this is why we do this.'"

Simmons said she tells the children "the dollars you bring in for these pumpkins -- you take them home with you -- every time you see that pumpkin, I want you to think about how you have helped someone in our community and I tell them that is called community service. You have helped someone in our community, somehow, while they are going through their cancer journey."

Simmons said there are probably more than 100 people throughout the year who help make the festival a reality and she has no plans to end it anytime soon.

"We can't thank our community enough for all the support they give the Sharing Bucket. It's God-given and God-driven. As far as we are concerned, we'll keep going as long as we have this continued support from family and community. Three girls and an empty bucket ... and we have been blessed by so many," Simmons said.

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