The Joplin Globe, Mo., Mike Pound column
Jul 18, 2012 (The Joplin Globe - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
CARTHAGE, Mo. -- It won't be long before the tents start going up.
The annual Marian Days celebration at the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix in Carthage is still two weeks away but experience tells me that we'll be seeing a few tents by next week. Most of those tents will be set up by folks who live in the area. They will put up the tents to save spots on the grounds of the congregation, located at Fairview and Grand avenues, and then leave them until closer to the celebration -- which officially gets under way on Aug. 2.
We live near the campus and we make it a point to spend as much time at Marian Days as possible. The religious and social gathering of Catholics of Vietnamese descent is in its 35th year, and my wife and I have been attending the event since at least 1990. When we first started wandering through the grounds there weren't as many non-Vietnamese folks walking with us as there are now. Father Thomas who handles public relations for the Marian Days event said the fact that so many area residents now attend the annual event tells him that they accept and embrace Marian Days.
"We have always welcomed everyone to take part in the celebration every year," he said. "Not only to visit our food tents but to take part in the religious programs and other events."
Ah, the food tents. I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you that the food tents are what first drew my wife and me to Marian Days. As a way to raise money for their churches, many communities set up tents to serve meals to the 40,000 to 60,000 who attend the gathering, including people like my wife and me. Right now I'm looking forward to getting on the outside of some hot bowls of pho, a few plates of spring rolls, some fried shrimp rolls, maybe some spicy beef, or pork, some sticky rice, some grill marinated beef sticks, some fresh fruit and anything else one of the young people who work the tents suggests I try.
Most of the tents have teenagers waiting tables. They do this, I think, because the teenagers are adept at helping people like me decide what we want to eat. Every year, it seems, someone suggests something new to my wife and me, and then we get to add a new dish to our list of favorites.
Every year, it seems, someone also asks me to tell him or her which tent serves the best food, and every year I'm hard pressed to single out just one. I will say that tents like the one from Port Arthur, Texas, and several from Louisiana have been around for years, but really, you'll find good food at all of the tents. If you want, you can just stroll through and sample the food sold at the front of each tent or take a gander at the menus posted at the entrance to each food tent. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that the good folks with the Knights of Columbus also run a food tent for those looking for more American-style dishes. The cotton candy sold at the tent was long a favorite of our now 14-year-old daughter, Emma. Now she is more partial to pho and sticky rice.
On Wednesday, I asked Father Thomas if he was concerned about heat being an issue during this year's celebration. He said hot weather is always a concern during Marian Days. Hot weather pretty much comes with any event scheduled during the first week of August.
"We will do what we always do," he said. "There will be plenty of water and fans, and places for people to go to cool off."
If you get a chance, you should drop by Marian Days. Just don't ask me which food tent is the best.
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