In Junction City, along with autumn comes a a yearly tradition from a long-established local club.

The GFWC Ladies Reading Club will hold its annual Fall Festival from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the clubhouse located at 224 North Jefferson St.

The event is open to all members of the public.

The group’s signature pecan halves will be offered for sale. There will be a gift basket drawing during the event, which serves as a yearly fundraiser for the group, and there will be door prizes. Handmade crafts will be for sale alongside a wide variety of home baked treats which can be eaten now or frozen for later.

To accompany baked goods purchased during the event, there will be coffee served in the morning. Later in the event — from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. — a lunch of homemade soups and sandwiches will be offered for sale.

Funds from the event, which is the Ladies Reading Club’s main fundraising activity for the year, will be used to support the club’s service efforts in the Junction City area.

The money, according to member Susan Moyer, “will be used to continue its commitment to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service. This includes support for students, families and veterans. Moneys earned from the festival will also be used for the upkeep and maintenance of the historic clubhouse.”

The Fall Festival is a longstanding tradition for a longstanding Junction City organization. It sprang from an event early members of the club held, a holiday-themed fundraiser featuring hand-dipped candles made by club members — an event called the Flaming Festival. Funds from the festival were used to keep the clubhouse up and running and to support the group’s service efforts in the community.

The group no longer makes candles to sell and the name of the festival has been changed, but the tradition has been carried on as the Fall Festival.

The Ladies Reading Club is a national group that grew from an aid society formed in the latter part of the 1800s. The national club began when a small group of women met to sew, roll bandages, and take part in other activities to assist with the crises of their day. To help pass the time and make their work more enjoyable, one of their circle was often designated to read aloud to the group as they worked, which is where the name “Ladies Reading Club” came from.

In addition to providing entertainment, the group also helped to bring literary offerings to women who otherwise had little access to books or the opportunity to learn to read. Education beyond the early grades was a luxury that just didn’t materialize for most people of that era. This was especially true for women and girls.

This fact motivated the aid group to formalize its status as a club in 1875, in the hopes of helping members to gain better access to educational programs — which modern branches still provide members today — and to literature.

The local club constructed its clubhouse in 1897 where it still stands today at the corner of Third and Jefferson Streets. The clubhouse still sees regular meetings of the modern-day Ladies Reading Club.

The Junction City branch of the Ladies Reading Club holds two prominent historical distinctions; it is the oldest Kansas affiliate of the international General Federation of Women’s Clubs and it operates out of the oldest clubhouse west of the Mississippi that is still in use.

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