It was a beautiful September evening on the streets of Somerset.
As the dusky sun reclined upon the horizon, yawning as it prepared to rest for the night, a dazzling array of colors dotted plates, and tempting aromas wafted in the air. With soothing music made by strings and keys setting the mood, tables lovingly dressed in fall decor greeted close to 200 people who took their seat along East Mt. Vernon Street to enjoy a fresh farm-to-table meal.
SomerHarvest was back.
The third-annual event, hosted by the Somerset Junior Woman's Club (SJWC), took place Thursday night. It was as perfect as the first edition of the community meal two years ago, as the weather cooperated this year -- in 2018, the threat of rain forced the dinner indoors to the Hal Rogers Fire Training Center.
But with a long table set up stretching all the way from the Fountain Square to the intersection with Maple Street, the setting was picture-perfect for a celebration of fall flavors.
"It has been wonderful," said organizer Wynona Padgett of SJWC. "The folks who helped set up everything, the kids from the (Future Farmers of America), and all of our members who got it all set up and ready to go pretty much on time. I think everyone has enjoyed the meal, and I think it's been a nice community meal."
Each guest was first handed a plate of rustic cucumbers and tomatoes, with a vibrant, juicy zest that leapt on the tongue. Then the line formed to stack a plate full of delectable herb-crusted pork loin languidly bathing in a bourbon peach glaze, sauteed chicken lovingly kissed by a delicate white wine sauce, an oven-roasted vegetable medley, rolls, and of course, the pilgrims' delight, corn on the cob.
Dessert was an apple pandowdy with honey chantilly cream, cheekily reminiscent in appearance of that autumnal staple, the humble gourd -- but with a much sweeter taste.
All of the ingredients came from local farms and providers, either donated or acquired at a discounted cost, to help out the non-profit cause. Money raised from the event goes to benefit the SJWC's Sheila Goodwin Scholarship fund, which provides money for a female students to attend Somerset Community College, as well as other community club efforts.
Chefs Jamie Lowery and Lisa Vanover prepared the meal and are both graduates of SCC's Culinary Arts program themselves. They were honored to take part in the event and show off their talents to the community, assisted by another SCC alum, Amy Barnhart.
"I'm excited about it," said Lowery. "With it being farm-to-table, a new movement coming on with a lot of different areas, and then everybody coming together as a community and showcasing some of our community vendors, we've just really had a good time."
Vanover said they developed their menu by going to local farmers and seeing what they had available to offer.
"(We saw) what products they had left, what would be best for us, and made sure we tried to remain budget friendly," she said. "We just went from there, did the best we could, and tried to fit everything together as it worked best."
Other local notables got in on the action too. Prior to the meal, "appetizers" were offered by Diamondz and Divaz Catering, Roy's Jamerican Grill, Ruckel's Restaurant, Serendipity at the Orange Door, the Mole Hole's gourmet chocolate shop, and Somerset Sweeterie. East Mt. Vernon from Maple to Central Avenue was also blocked off to allow for a vendor alley of artists and local organizations.
Rounding out the event was the music of Pleasant Company, which has performed at the event the last couple of years. The ensemble blends traditional folk music from different backgrounds, creating a sound that perfectly matched the meal and surrounding environment.
In all, Padgett felt it was a successful event -- and is hopeful for it to continue that way in the future, as this fall departs and another arrives, as is nature's unflinching way.
"Next year, as long as the weather holds for us, I think we'll make two lines of tables so it's not as long, and hopefully have two lines of serving tables," she said. "It's a learning experience every time we do it, but this is more than we had the first year we did it probably by over 50 people."
Nevertheless, downtown Somerset was a cornucopia of full bellies and smiling faces Thursday night -- the perfect introduction to autumn in the Bluegrass.
"It's really nice," said John Adams, Somerset City Attorney, of the event. "... My hats are off to the women's club for having this. It's a great event, and I hope it's very successful for them. The City highly encourages these events."