When patrons of Marion’s Art in the Park festival purchase a meal, they may not realize that in exchange for their food, they’re providing a souvenir from Italy, or a bottle of Gatorade for that extra push in the fourth quarter of a football game.
However, thanks to local fundraising organizations, that’s just what patrons are doing.
Among the vendors hoping to raise money for local causes are Marion High School’s booster club and an educational travel-abroad group that sends students overseas to learn other cultures.
“It is probably one of our largest fundraisers,” said Tina Groening, who’s in charge of the booster club’s massive bierock operation this year.
Groening has been tasked with overseeing the production of nearly 1,000 bierocks to be sold for $4 apiece on Saturday.
“It’s been great,” Groening said. “We have so many volunteers that help the group besides the men and women that help to make the bierocks.”
Groening cited Dan Ludwig, who transports the bierocks from the kitchen of Marion Elementary School, where they’re made, to Central Park where they’re sold. Carlsons’ Grocery also helps order supplies. Many others help out each year, Groening said.
“It’s a huge benefit to have such a big gathering of people in our community,” she said. “Without the people, there wouldn’t be the sales to sell 950 bierocks on a normal, given day. Art in the Park is a great vehicle to make that happen.”
A great vehicle to make international travel happen is a plane, and unfortunately, plane tickets aren’t always cheap.
The educational travel abroad group, headed up this year by Amy Kjellin and Laura Baldwin, also takes advantage of the crowds to raise money for a group trip.
“We have a large number of kids who want the experience of traveling abroad,” Kjellin said. “To a lot of those families, our fundraising will be crucial to their ability go.”
Kjellin said more than 20 have expressed interest in traveling, which is more than the group has had on recent trips.
The most recent trip was this summer, coordinated by Lisa Johnson. Students went to Europe and learned world history as they traveled through many countries.
Kjellin said the group will have a trip every “two to three years,” depending on when funds and students are available to go.
“It’s just such an amazing opportunity to see parts of the world that maybe they’ve studied in history class, or seen in school or movies or even video games,” she said. “They actually get to see the real place.”
Art in the Park organizer Margo Yates said she tries to allow for local groups to sell food for fundraisers.
“We try to keep it local,” Yates said. “Even if you’re not interested in arts and crafts, it’s a great opportunity to support local groups that are doing fundraising.”
Eastmoor United Methodist Church will sell funnel cakes to benefit Marion Youth Center. The center is looking to relocate after it vacated its space on Main St. to make way for Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank.
The travel abroad group will have two entrée options, pulled pork and taco salad.
Kjellin said it’s the first major fundraiser in the process for the group’s next trip, and she hopes things get off to a good start.
“It’s a great opportunity, a great event for the community, and just a lot of fun,” she said. “And the food’s really good, too.”