Library fundraiser offers fun, food, fellowship

Published 8:10 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2017

With a sumptuous spread of dishes prepared by some of Crenshaw County’s finest cooks, an array of desirable silent auction items on which to bid, and an entertaining and thought-provoking performance by popular author, singer and teller of tales, Sean Dietrich,  “A Taste of Christmas” offered its patrons a veritable feast for all the senses. 

Sponsored by the Luverne Friends of the Library, Monday night’s event at Luverne United Methodist’s DEI Center drew rave reviews from several of its 200 attendees.

“What a great night and a great event. Luverne definitely lived up to its name as ‘the friendliest city’ tonight,” said Rebecca Duncan of Nanny’s Fine Dining in Butler County. The busy caterer expressed her delight at being able to enjoy a hearty sampling of decadent desserts, sweet and savory dips, bite-sized sandwiches and much more, all provided courtesy of members of the Friends of the Library.

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“Wow, what a spread,” Duncan exclaimed. “And I didn’t have to lift a finger, which is really a treat.”

Her sister, Dottie Little, agreed. “It was delicious and plentiful,” she said.

Luverne city council member and director of Safe Harbor, Kathy Smyth, swore she was going to “dial it back” when it came to bidding on silent auction items, but she still went home with an armload of treasures.

“Well, it is for such a good cause, our wonderful library,” Smyth said with a smile.

Following the silent auction closure, Sean Dietrich, known to many as Sean of the South through his books, popular blog and FB page, strapped on his acoustic guitar and stepped on the stage.

Dietrich’s mellow voice crooned a number of traditional Christmas songs, including a haunting version of “Silent Night” in its original German as he learned it from his father as a child.  The songs were interspersed with funny and touching tales of his childhood and youth as the son of hard-working blue collar parents “who worked from ‘can to can’t’ and dawn ‘til dusk.”

“I am from a long line of steel workers—and storytellers, or ‘Bsers’ is the technical term,” Dietrich said with a grin.

There were tales of Miss Jessie at the Baptist church, who made the best fried chicken in town, and was remembered after her passing, not with a traditional funeral, but with the covered dish meal she requested; of Toby, the homeless man, a big guy with a white beard who, it turned out, made the perfect Santa—and who finally reconnected with a long-lost daughter. And there was  Uncle John with his raggedy old lopsided Winnebago, who liked to deep fry the Thanksgiving turkey “‘cause it was a good excuse to smoke and drink all day.”

Dietrich recalled his father, a man who enjoyed tinkering with the cars and trucks of folks who needed repairs but had little money to spare.

“He’d always say, ‘No charge,’ and then you know those casserole dishes and cakes and pies would start showing up on the front porch . . . when he took his own life, it left a hole in our hearts.”

Dietrich , who dropped out of high school in order to help his mother financially, eventually had the opportunity to get his GED, earn a college degree at age 28 and pursue his dream of becoming a published writer.

“I remember my mom laughing and crying over a column by Lewis Grizzard and telling me she wanted someone to write about her one day,” recalled Dietrich, who was able to make that wish come true with his first published story.

He closed out his performance with “the prayer of all old men . . . make us truly grateful for the people who love us.”

Both prior to and following the event, Dietrich met with fans to sign books and pose for photographs.

Library director Kathryn Tomlin expressed her satisfaction with “A Taste of Christmas” 2017.

“We have a truly wonderful Friends group here in Luverne . . . I hear horror stories from librarians in other places but that is not at all our experience here,” Tomlin said. “They donated all the wonderful food and silent auction items for tonight. What a treat to have Sean here, too. It’s been a great evening!”