Parish Hill Empty Bowls about more than just soup

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Fri., Mar. 25, 2011
There were an estimated 700 bowls to choose from at the event. Photos by Melanie Savage.
There were an estimated 700 bowls to choose from at the event. Photos by Melanie Savage.

The Empty Bowls evening at Parish Hill High School has become more than just a fundraiser for worthwhile local causes. Held for the 12th year on March 24, the event has become, for many local families, a not-to-be-missed annual tradition.

“A lot of our graduates will come back for this,” said Ann Williams, an art teacher at the school. Williams has been involved with the project from the beginning, when two Parish Hill students were inspired by a similar event at Manchester Community College. “We’ve been doing it ever since,” said Williams, “and it’s just been growing by leaps and bounds.”

Last year, Empty Bowls raised more than $8,000, which went to benefit the Covenant Soup Kitchen, Helping Hands, and another local charity. With more than 700 bowls lined up in the Parish Hill auditorium, and at least 70 varieties of soup in the kitchen, volunteers hoped to match that figure for 2011. 

Some bowls are produced by local professional potters. “We had one man who used to be a professional,” said Williams. “He stopped doing ceramics for a while. But he stopped in a couple of times during our workshops, and I understand he’s been inspired to start up again.”

But the majority of the bowls are made by beginners, produced at workshops overseen by Williams and Hampton Elementary art teacher Elizabeth Wilson. “We’ve been working on Saturdays and we’ve been working evenings,” said Williams. “They learn to make a bowl, and then they can paint it or glaze it. We have all ages that come to work on the bowls.” Third-graders from Hampton Elementary produced some unique, square-shaped bowls. Parish Hill sophomore Khalil attempted to contribute during last year’s Empty Bowls event. “But my bowls didn’t turn out too well,” he said. This year, he gave it another try. “I did better this year, so I decided to keep going,” said Khalil. “I think I made about 30 bowls total.”

“A husband-and-wife team from Chaplin came maybe four weeks in a row,” said Williams. “Now he’s looking into getting a kiln for his wife.”

A look at the bowl table in the auditorium revealed a vast array of colors and designs. “When they come out of the kiln, it’s like magic,” said Williams. “That’s part of what people love about it.”

For $10 ($5 for smaller bowls), visitors could choose a bowl and head to the cafeteria. There, they were free to fill up as many times as they liked with a wide variety of soups, chilis and stews. “We’ve got homemade soups and breads, all made by faculty, staff and administrators from the school, and members of the community,” said Williams. This year, Parish Hill Superintendent Ken Henrici contributed chicken tortilla soup. Staff members and students, such as Parish Hill senior Tyler Brousseau, helped out in the kitchen. “It’s fun,” said Brousseau. “I like interacting with the people.”

Hampton resident Edith Penrod makes Empty Bowls an annual tradition. Her two daughters work in the Parish Hill kitchen. This year, Penrod and her grandson, Julian Logan, were the first in line when the doors opened. “It’s always good food,” said Penrod.

“Every year I come and try the different chilis,” said Logan. This year, with six recipes to choose from, Logan had managed to sample three. He said that two were good, but one was especially tasty. “I like it pretty spicy,” said Logan.

Back in the auditorium, Williams continued stocking the bowl table while a steady stream of customers filed through. “You see that girl down there with the ponytail?” she asked. “She’s a graduate. They come back. That’s what it’s all about.”

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