Sweet harvest: Country Store Bake Sale celebrates 50 years of tradition, preservation

November 17, 2010 10:00:00 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


For 50 delicious Novembers, the annual Country Store Bake Sale has helped fill Thanksgiving tables to overflowing with some of the tastiest homemade cakes, pies, candies, cookies, cheese straws and other goodies this side of the Mississippi River. 


And, throughout those five decades, the sale has generated thousands of dollars toward the upkeep of the historic Stephen D. Lee Home at 316 Seventh St. N. in Columbus. Always held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the sale falls this year on Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the Lee Home. 


The circa 1847 structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places houses the Florence McLeod Hazard Museum of Civil War collections, and is a popular site for community and private events. 


Betty Pope Waters'' own wedding reception was held there, as was her sister''s. Betty''s family, and that of her husband, Mike, have supported the preservation of the antebellum landmark for many of the sale''s 50-years. 




Family tradition 


Dr. Mary Ellen Weathersby Pope, Betty''s late grandmother, used to enjoy making desserts for the festive frenzy of shopping. The former Mississippi University for Women home economics professor passed away in 2007, just days short of her 102nd birthday. 


Waters still remembers taking her grandmother to meetings of the Association for the Preservation of Antiquities in Columbus and Lowndes County, which sponsors the sale. Now, it''s Betty making the desserts each year -- like her sought-after German chocolate cakes and carrot cakes, as well as pies. She also serves on the Lee Foundation Board of Directors. 


The sale draws so much interest, many shoppers line up before the 10 a.m. opening according to numbers they''ve picked up earlier in the morning, starting at 8 a.m.  


"One of my most vivid memories is my mother and daddy always being first in line, to buy my cakes to bring back to my house every year," Waters said with a smile. "They would leave early in the morning to get their numbers, always hoping to be No. 1 and 2 at the door. They were so supportive. They''d leave with boxes (of items) and give a lot of it away." 


Waters'' own daughters took their turns, too, either helping in the kitchen or helping deliver homebaked desserts to the Lee Home.  


Katy Waters remembers her mother always making the same cakes, by popular demand. 


"I enjoyed the excitement at the sale, of everybody getting ready for Thanksgiving," she recalled. 




Fundraising goal 


Betty Rhea is marking her 10th year as chair of the event.  


"Since this is our 50th anniversary, we''ve set a higher goal -- $5,000 -- for what we want to raise," she shared. "This is our only fundraiser, and all proceeds are available to the Stephen D. Lee Foundation for the needs of the home. There''s always a wish list, like increasing the exterior lighting, redoing landscaping and working on drainage issues." Funds have also helped repair paintings and rugs, remodel restrooms and restore furniture. 


Rhea and Waters pointed out the sale isn''t limited to sweets. In addition to fast-selling cheese straws, there is always a selection of homemade rolls and bread and often items such as home-canned pickles, homemade pimento and cheese, and soup.  




Personal shoppers 


Unable to attend the sale? Members of the Antiquities Association will do their best to act as "personal shoppers" Nov. 23, after the initial rush of shoppers with numbers is over. 


"We can''t guarantee that we''ll we able to get exactly what they want, but we can let them know what is left," said Rhea, who suggested anyone interested in a "shopper" call the Lee Home at 662-327-8888 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Nov. 23. "We can call them back later and tell them what is still available." 




Take a number 


Although doors open at 10 a.m., shoppers can stop by the Lee Home any time after 8 a.m. to pick up a number. 


"What that does is give them shopping priority in just lining up to shop. Then they need to come back a little before 10 a.m. Everybody enters in single file in the order they''re lined up," Rhea explained. 


Between about 9 and 10 a.m., they can also come in for a brief preview, to see what''s offered and where their favorites are. 


"People just have a lot of fun," smiled Rhea. "It''s electric right at 10 o''clock -- a friendly competition to see who can get their prized possession." But, even if you can''t be on hand when doors open, there are ample treats, and the sale is open until noon. Most items are decorated with a holiday touch and make wonderful hostess gifts, noted Rhea. 


"It''s really a fun event; the rush of people coming in the door is just priceless," said Waters. "It''s just a cheery, happy time." 


Enjoy some of Betty Waters'' favorite dessert recipes in today''s food pages. Then go online to www.cdispatch.com and follow the Lifestyles link to also get one of husband Mike''s favorites -- a recipe for wild turkey dressing, a dish he especially enjoys making for holiday dinners. 








One bar (4 ounces) Bakers German Sweet Chocolate 


1/2 cup boiling water 


1 cup butter 


1 teaspoon baking soda 


Four egg yolks, unbeaten 


2 cups sugar 


1 teaspoon vanilla 


Four egg whites, stiffly beaten 


2 1/2 cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour 


1/2 teaspoon salt 


1 cup buttermilk 










1 cup evaporated milk 


1 cup sugar 


Three egg yolks 


1/2 cup butter 


1 teaspoon vanilla 


1 1/2 cup Bakers Angle Flake Coconut 


1 cup chopped pecans 




(Note: For full coverage of German chocolate cake, double this frosting recipe.) 








One package yeast 


1/4 cup sugar 


1 teaspoon salt 


1 1/2 sticks butter, melted 


4 cups self-rising flour, sifted 


2 cups warm water 


One egg (slightly beaten with fork) 


Dill (optional) 










1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened 


1 1/2 dozen almond macaroons, broken in pieces 


3/4 cup champagne 








Serves 10-12 




3 cups cooked wild rice 


2 cups cornbread crumbs 


1 cup minced onion  


11 cup diced celery 


1 teaspoon minced garlic 


1 tablespoon chopped parsley 


1/2 cup butter 


2 teaspoons salt 


1 teaspoon black pepper 


1 teaspoon sweet basil 


1/2 cup chopped bell pepper 


1/2 teaspoon sage 


1/2 teaspoon rosemary 


1 cup sliced mushrooms 


2 cups stock from turkey or canned chicken broth 


  • Sauté onions until transparent in the butter, then add the bell pepper, celery, garlic and parsley, stirring constantly over low heat.  


  • When cooked down slightly, add the remaining ingredients and mix in a large bowl, moistening the ingredients with turkey or chicken stock to soft consistency. 


  • Stuff the turkey with the dressing, or cook in a separate pan at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.