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Thursday
October 17th, 2019

ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

The parking lot at the Ashley Homestore on South Kansas Avenue has plenty of room for customers coming through its doors every day.

The lot has also been the site for some community events, and there will be another one taking place this Saturday, just in time for the store’s fourth anniversary in Liberal.

There will be plenty of food for those on hand from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday because the event centers around what else? Food.

The store is hosting the first ever “Community Church-off,” and Gabrielle Lam, the event’s organizer, said all churches within the area are invited to participate.

“It’s not just the Liberal zip code,” she said. “Anyone can come and cook their best dishes, and it’s going to be the voter’s choice. The public will get to purchase a sampling kit for $5 apiece, and with that sampling kit, you get a plate and all the silverware to go through the line. You get to judge for the best dish.”

Lam said funds raised during the day will be redistributed to all participants.

“Even if they don’t win, they still get a little piece of the pie,” she said. “First place gets a $250 donation plus a little trophy for the tastiest church. Second place gets $150, and third place gets $100.”

As with the other events Ashley Homestore hosts, Lam said the business is simply looking for community involvement and a way to give back.

“We’ve partnered with the first responders, the breast cancer awareness groups,” she said. “We’ve done stuff for teachers, so we thought why not try the churches and try to get everyone involved in that aspect as well.”

Naturally, Lam expects a great time and some great food for Saturday.

“I think it’ll be a great deal,” she said. “The weather’s going to be really tolerable during this event, or so they’re predicting. We are going to have a couple of activities for the kiddos. We’re going to do pony rides for $1 apiece. That’s the first time we’ve ever had that on the parking lot. There will also be a corn pit, so the kids can play in the corn. There’s going to be stick pony races, a bouncy house and some entertainment from KSCB as well, so I think it’ll be a great time.”

As for what food will be seen, smelled and tasted for the “church-off,” contestants can bring their “Sunday’s Best Lunch,” including Mexican, barbecue and potluck. Lam said what the dishes are is a complete surprise, which she feels is the best part of the event.

“One of the churches said they’re going to bring their walking tacos the children’s church likes to do,” she said. “Another one said they’ll do maybe a Mexican fiesta type of meal, which I think would mean enchiladas. Everybody’s welcome to bring whatever, it can be sandwiches or soups, pastas, whatever they’re good at.”

With all of the fun going on Saturday at the store, Lam said the event is very family friendly, and though Halloween is near, that celebration will not be a part of this year’s church-off. She said it could be part of future events, though, and for this year, churches will be allowed to hand out pamphlets for trick-or-treat alternatives. Lam added she is super confident Saturday’s event will go well and that the church-off will continue in coming years.

“I’ve gone to a couple of meetings with the church leaders in the community, and they all seem to be pretty enthused about it,” she said. “I’ve also talked to a couple of the children’s church directors, and they think it’s a great way to start raising money to sponsor kids to go to church camp or maybe even just have some extra funds. Maybe they can help out with buying presents for the kids or doing a food bank. I think it’s a great opportunity for the community and for the churches, and if everyone’s game, we’re going to do it again.”

Lam said the store’s parking lot makes a great venue for the event.

“As it grows, we’ve got plenty of space,” she said. “There’s parking on Kansas Avenue. We’ve got plenty of space to expand and make it as big as we want to next year.”

Lam said that expansion is not out of the question for future editions of the church-off.

“I think it’d be really cool if we could, and who knows?” she said. “Maybe next year, we can make it instead of just a two and a half to three-hour event, it’ll end up being a couple days or an all-afternoon event.”

Each participant is required to bring a minimum of four to six dishes to serve 300 people sample sizes. Each church will have an area on the parking lot to serve, and tables and chairs will be provided. Participants are also allowed to decorate as much as they want.

The Ashley Homestore is located at 529 S. Kansas in Liberal. For more information or to reserve a spot, call Lam at 620-624-1066 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“If there’s anybody within the church or a leadership role within the church who wants more information, they can contact myself,” she said. “I’m here at the Ashley Homestore basically anytime. If you want to participate, I would just need an RSVP before Oct. 11.”

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