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Garrett Smith, 8, of Jackson enjoys his cotton candy while spending time at the Day in the Country Chapel of the Cross festival held Saturday in Madison. / Kathy Matheny

The historic Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in Madison and its grounds are worth a visit any day.

The first Saturday of each October provides an extra special reason and that’s true once again thanks to the 35th annual Day in the Country on Oct 4.

Scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the church grounds, A Day in the Country is a family-friendly festival that provides fun for all ages. Admission is free; parking is $5 per vehicle.

“Day in the Country brings our church community together, we gain new friendships from the work we do together and we get to introduce the Chapel of the Cross to people who haven’t visited before,” said Brooke Hardman of Madison, who chairs the 2014 event with her husband Joe.

Malorise and Brian Martin of Madison are co-chairs.

For runners and walkers, the event will kick off at 8 a.m. with a 5K run/walk that is coordinated and sanctioned by the Mississippi Track Club. Check-in begins at 6:30 a.m. on race day. For more information, go to www.mstrackclub.com.

Throughout the day, there are tours of the chapel and historic cemetery, old-fashioned games and pony rides for children, a rummage sale and displays by 133 arts and crafts vendors.

A silent auction, a wine tasting and plenty of food options are part of the festival.

Look for jams, jellies and pickles as well as cakes, cookies, muffins and baked goods available for purchase in the bake booth.

Members of the church led by Dan Robertson pour their heart and soul into the countless loaves of bread they bake and sell during the festival, Hardman said.

Try a slice of 63-Egg Cake, the festival’s signature cake. Frances Britton, whose mother built the chapel in memory of her husband, created the white pound cake with butter cream icing. She won first prize for the cake at the first Mississippi State Fair in 1859.

“What makes the cake light and white is that it uses egg white, not the yolk,” said Anne Mollere, a descendant of Britton who owns the sterling silver napkin ring bestowed for the cake’s first-prize win.

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Take home a copy of the Chapel of the Cross cookbook that was a hit earlier this year in New York at the Mississippi Picnic in Central Park.

Make time to enjoy a hamburger, hotdog, red beans and rice, roasted corn, peanuts and other foods and to listen to the musical entertainment.

Church members and visitors close the day with Holy Eucharist at 4 p.m., and all are welcome, Hardman said. Festival-goers are welcome to return to an outdoor worship service the next day on Oct. 5 at 10 a.m., she said.

Sandy Stater, a church member since mid-1988 but a Day in the Country volunteer before that, said A Day in the Country began in 1979 from the need to restore the structure that dates to 1852.

“Initially it was held to raise money to supply matching funds for a grant that the Department of Interior gave to restore the church,” he said. “The first five to eight or nine years were probably the hardest to keep the festival going because the church membership was small. Everybody pitched in because they knew there was an obligation to meet.

“From that it grew into something that people enjoyed, and it became an outreach ministry. It seemed like every year we gained new members from A Day in the Country, and it became part of the culture of the church.

“At one point, we decided it would be the first Saturday of October and people started putting it on their calendars. I’d guess half of the people who come have been before.”

The Gothic-style chapel is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and offers four services on Sunday, Sunday school classes for all ages, Wednesday night suppers and numerous outreach ministries.

The Chapel of the Cross is located on Mississippi Highway 463, about six miles west of the Madison exit off I-55 North. For more information, phone the church office at 601-856-2593.

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