Sunday, July 09, 2000

Soup's on at St. Rita Fest

Mock turtle still a hit after 84 years

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EVENDALE — An 84-year-old family tradition keeps people coming back to the St. Rita Fest year after year. Even the recipe for the revered mock turtle soup is shrouded in secrecy — only four family members are privy to it.

  St. Rita Fest continues 1-10 p.m. today at St. Rita School for the Deaf, 1720 Glendale-Milford Road, Evendale. From downtown Cincinnati, take Interstate 75 north to Exit 14. Admission is free.
        “It tastes like nothing you've ever had before,” said Mike Woebkenberg, whose grandmother starting making the soup at the first St. Rita Visiting Day in 1916. Visiting Day turned into the three-day festival, which is a fund-raiser for the St. Rita School for the Deaf.

        “It's not for everyone and if you don't like it, that's fine. But evidently it's good enough for 600 gallons to go out (every year),” the Sharonville man said.

        Bob Krabbe of Cheviot was enjoying a large bowl of the delicacy Saturday afternoon.

        “You always have to have the turtle soup,” said the 63-year-old man who has been coming to the festival for 55 years.

        “It's what they're famous for. I remember when I was a kid, my mother used to come back with shopping bags full of it.”

        About 100,000 people are expected to visit the festival before it closes today. Proceeds from the food booths, games and rides ben efit the school, which is the nation's first Catholic high school for the deaf and is privately financed.

        Organizers hope to raise $300,000, said Angie Frith, public relations coordinator. Last year the school raised $223,000, which covered 8 percent of its operating costs.

        Even if the turtle soup didn't appeal to everyone, there were plenty of other activities.

        Chad Metcalf, 18, a recent graduate of the school, reflected on the opportunities the institution provided for him.

        “The classes were very small and the teachers could readily help,” he said, speaking through a sign language interpreter.

        Mr. Metcalf of Hamilton will be a freshman this fall at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

        “This weekend is wonderful because St. Rita needs the financial support so other children can have this chance,” he said.


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