Crowds brave cold temperatures to fill Empty Bowls

Idaho StatesmanNovember 29, 2013 

Nine-year-old Maggy Hubsmith stood like a distance runner waiting for the starter's gun to go off as she waited at the front of the line Friday morning at the Empty Bowls charity event at the Grove Plaza.

The fourth-grader at the Gateway School of Language and Culture already had her eye on a brown and red bowl with an owl's face on the front. She wanted to ensure that she didn't miss out on it.

Minutes later, Hubsmith walked past the three tables filled with bowls, clutching her prized owl bowl and a second one that showed an owl perched on tree branches inside it.

"I saw the one before. The other one I noticed as I walked around," she said, smiling.

Danielle Watson turned over a bowl that looked more like a giant coffee mug, complete with a handle. It featured yellow leaves inside and out with a bold splash of red surrounding the leaves. A note underneath said it had been painted by a student at Hillside Junior High.

"I'm impressed," Watson's friend Angie Monroe said, nodding approval.

More than 2,000 bowls painted and donated by various area residents, from amateurs to professionals, were on display. Most went for $10, though some larger bowls and trays sold for $20. Buyers received a bowl of soup donated by one of several area restaurants.

The money Friday — the event's 16th year — went to the Idaho Foodbank. Each sale of a $10 bowl will allow the Foodbank to provide 30 meals this winter, according to materials the nonprofit sent out in advance.

"It always amazes me every year how many people come out and how early they come," Foodbank worker Wendy Freckleton said. "They're supporting those artisans and the Foodbank."

More than 100 people waited in line under sunny skies and a temperature of 36 degrees at 10 a.m., an hour before the first wave of people were allowed to begin browsing the tables filled with bowls. By then, the crowd had swelled to 300 people, with more arrivals sending the line curving past the west end of the Grove toward the back of the Wells Fargo building farther north.

Monroe said she has about a dozen bowls at home from previous Empty Bowls events. She first began going with her step-mother, who has since passed away. She treasures each bowl and remembers which year each of them was purchased, she said. When she views the bowls, they provide a lasting memory of her step-mother.

The first year she attended Empty Bowls, Monroe said, she came after it started and she was at the back of a long line in a bad rainstorm. Ever since, she said, she's come early so she'll be near the front of the line. That also gives her time to view the bowls on display before the sales begin, although that doesn't stop her from wondering whether someone else has their eye on the same bowl.

"My biggest fear is that the one I want won't be there," she said.

She encouraged friends Watson and Susan Samson to join her this year.

"There were a whole lot of interesting bowls out there," Samson said.

Star resident Mike Veitch said this was his fifth year attending Empty Bowls.

"I think it's an important event that can be embraced by all members of the community," Veitch said. "You never know when your circumstances might change and you'll need help from the Foodbank. It's really about helping someone else."

Maggy Hubsmith's mother, Lisa, said she was impressed by the quality of the artwork.

"I'd rather be here than at the Black Friday sales," she said.

Lisa's mother, Maggie Gibson of Elko, Nev., agreed.

"If we get run over here, we know it's for a good cause," she said, laughing.

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