On 150 acres of forest land, surrounded by rolling prairies and distant mountain peaks, sits the Monastery of St. Gertrude.Most of the year it’s a peaceful place but every August a festive atmosphere erupts. This week, the sisters of the monastery are out in the field picking raspberries for Sunday’s 20th annual Raspberry Festival. Raspberry shortcake, lemonade, jam, wine and vinegar are being prepared. An average of 3,000 people are expected.
“We’ve had buses from Montana and Boise,” says Theresa Henson, communications manager for the monastery.
“It’s just a really fun, relaxing family-oriented day. It’s a great opportunity for people to come visit the monastery and learn about its history and influence on the region,” says Henson, “and have some really good food and shop.”
The festival is a fundraiser for the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, one of the Northwest’s longest, continuously operating museums. With around 70,000 artifacts in its collection, the 12,000 on display include Asian and European pieces dating back to the 14th century, and personal items owned by Chinese immigrant Polly Bemis and modern-day mountain man Buckskin Bill.
While the museum is showcased during the festival, the event also connects to the monastery’s philosophy on land use, says Henson. The sisters use the event as a way to celebrate interconnectedness with the community, and reverence and care of the land’s resources.
The festival begins with a fun run and walk at 8 a.m. in front of the historical museum.
The course follows a scenic, out-and-back paved road with views of the Seven Devils Mountains, Camas Prairie and the Gospel Hump and Buffalo Hump wilderness areas. The course is marked with 5-K and 10-K turnarounds. The cost is $18 and includes a T-shirt. Registration is available online or before the race.
An arts and crafts fair with 40 vendors is slated from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the monastery lawn and the adjacent Prairie High School Gymnasium. Among the artisan goods made by the sisters and volunteers will be herbal soaps and lip balm, wood art, baptismal gowns, knitted work and wood art. A kid’s carnival will have games, face painting and clowns.
The sisters will also lead historical tours of the chapel. They’ve found the tours are a big hit with visitors, Henson says.
The Monastery of St. Gertrude was founded by three sisters on a mission from Switzerland in the late 1800s. They founded schools and hospitals throughout Idaho. Today the monastery is a center for Benedictine spirituality. About 2,500 people visit annually for retreats, says Henson. There are 50 sisters in the community and about 40 live at the monastery. Others are on missions around the Northwest.
If you go
What: The 20th annual Monastery of St. Gertrude Raspberry Festival
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood
On the Net: www.stgertrudes.org