St. Nicholas, Noel celebrates its Hispanic culture with kermes festivals. Tourists, locals, and other Episcopalians join St. Nicholas for food, fellowship, and live music in Spanish.Melissa George Two-minute read. Resources
Noel, the Canoe Capital of the Ozarks, is a river town on the Arkansas border. The exit off Interstate 49, lined with steep cliffs and scenic water views, winds straight into town. Mexican and Somalian grocery stores, a post office and several small businesses line Main Street. Tourism from the Elk River and the Tyson Chicken processing plant sustain the local economy. Meanwhile, La Iglesia de San Nicolas (St. Nicholas Episcopal Church) radiates the love of Christ in Spanish from its downtown location.
“We want everyone to know we are here and how to find us,” says the Reverend Jose Palma, St. Nicholas’ padre (priest) and Hispanic Missioner for The Diocese of West Missouri. “Our kermes festivals are our main outreach events.” A “kermes” is a church festival with food, entertainment and fellowship in Hispanic cultures. St. Nicholas’ kermes celebrates the mission while raising money for day to day operations.
At the kermes on July 20, the menu reflected the Mexican and El Salvadorian members of the mission. Carne asada (beef) and pastor (pork) grilled fresh on-site and topped with chopped onions, fresh cilantro, lime, and tomatillo salsa offered a unique taco experience. A griddle warmed pupusas, hand made flatbreads stuffed with cheese and served with a tangy cabbage dressing. Chicken and pork tamales hand wrapped in corn husks and foil were also available. Freshly cut fruit and Aguas (slushies in melon, coconut, and other tropical flavors) rounded out the meal.
Parishioners took orders in a mixture of English and Spanish while others lovingly grilled and prepared the food fresh to the diner’s specifications. Others sang karaoke or held up signs waving motorists in for lunch. The youngest members of St. Nicholas ran and played, enjoying the bright summer day.
Tourists, locals, and Episcopalians from other locations dined in an open-air tent. The choir of Grace, Carthage’s Spanish-speaking congregation shared a variety of live musical selections ranging from love songs to popular ballads from Mexico and Central America. The heaping plates of food, conversation in English and Spanish, and beaming faces radiant with summer heat and spicy salsa assured the Episcopalians of St. Nicholas, Noel that their kermes was truly a success as they shared the hospitality of Christ with strangers soon to be friends.