Now that Meet Me at the Court has wrapped its fall carnival, the group has announced plans for its holiday events.
The 10th annual Sharion Bailey Whitlock Carnival of Love was held Oct. 7 in Mattocks Park, drawing children and adults who availed themselves to food, beverages, games, cooking competitions and more.
The carnival was presented by Meet Me at the Court, The Bailey Family and the El Dorado chapter of the Sugar Town Riders Motorcycle Club.
The event kicked off at 11 a.m. and Veronica Bailey, president and CEO of MMC, said the crowd began to thicken over an hour later.
"After lunch, they just started piling in and it was just beautiful. The 10th annual Sharion Bailey Whitlock Carnival of Love was a huge success," Bailey said.
She said attendees poured in from El Dorado and Union County, including Strong, Smackover and Parkers Chapel.
Admission for the event and all of its activities was free.
"We received so much positive feedback from it and word is spreading around about how much fun people had at the carnival and that's what we wanted -- everybody to enjoy themselves in a nice family atmosphere," Bailey said.
"It was great fellowship and there was so much diversity there. And I had so many parents and grandparents telling me that they couldn't believe it was all free," she added.
There were giant inflatables, face-painting, hula hoops, "pick up ducks," bat-and-ball, a three-point basketball shootout and a prize table for all children who attended the event.
The El Dorado Fire Department was on hand with a pumper truck and conducted a demonstration on how the apparatus works.
"We had babies in strollers, then the toddlers, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. They loved that fire truck. We had an adult to climb up in the fire truck. She said she had never been in a fire truck before," Bailey said with a laugh.
Free food and beverages were also available and included carnival fare -- candy apples, popcorn and cotton candy.
Entries for chili and dessert cooking competitions were also served to the crowd following judging.
Winners of the chili cookoff were Lillie Hill, first place; Sophia Clay, second; and Gwen Williams, third.
Taking home prizes in the dessert competition were Ethel Rester, first place with a German chocolate cake; Alfriza Moore, second with a banana pudding; and Lisa Taylor, third with a pound cake.
Cash prizes of $100, $50 and $25 were awarded to first- second- and third-place winners, respectively.
Bailey thanked the contestants for their "delicious and creative" recipes.
"The judges just couldn't believe the chili! They even came across chili that had potatoes in it and they said it was good. It was just magnificent," said Bailey.
The day took on a somber note as MMC mourned the loss of one of its biggest supporters.
Cleo Jamerson of C&C Chews and More often catered MMC events with his signature homemade pound cake.
Jamerson, 58, died Oct. 6, the day before the Carnival of Love. Bailey said she last had spoken to him a few days prior to the event.
"Each time Meet Me at the Court needed him, he was always there and he always did our desserts. He was going to bring his famous pound cake and he had told us he was going to do a pot of chili for the kids at the carnival," said Bailey.
"He had a very large love for kinds and he was so dedicated to Meet Me at the Court. We send our prayers and condolences to his wife (Cacita) and his family," she continued. "Cleo and his wife are special to Meet Me at the Court and he will always be remembered. He will never be forgotten."
MMC is preparing for the holiday season and upcoming events.
On Oct. 26, MMC youth members plan to donate at least 200 canned goods to the Salvation Army of El Dorado Food Pantry, Bailey said.
The 10th annual Sharion Bailey Whitlock Soul Food Community Dinner: Good Food for the Body and Soul is slated for noon on Nov. 4 in the rear parking lot of the TAC House, 1101 N. West Ave.
The dinner is free and open to the public.
As has been the format for the past few years, MMC, The Bailey Family and the Sugar Town Riders will offer a drive-through service for the dinner.
"Please do not get out of your vehicle," Bailey said.
El Dorado Police Chief Kenny Hickman will serve as the grand marshal for the dinner.
Bailey said the menu will include smoked turkey, baked turkey, fried turkey, collard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, BBQ chicken, baked chicken, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, Purple Hull Peas, chicken and dumplings, glazed ham and more.
"I had a big request for chitterlings so we'll have some of those. They won't be for everybody, just for people who requested it," Bailey said.
She reiterated statements she has previously made about the dinner.
"It's open to anybody who wants to come and eat," Bailey said. "There will also be dessert and beverages, so you will get a full soul food meal."
"Last year, we had some people already on the parking lot at 10 (a.m.). Some walked. Others rode bicycles. One man who came up on a bicycle said, "Ms. Bailey, I don't have a car. This is my transportation,' and I told him to come on," she said with a laugh.
The Sharion Bailey Whitlock Angel Tree and Christmas on the Court are scheduled for Dec. 21 and 23, respectively.
Bailey said MMC will begin accepting names for Angel Tree gifts on Nov. 7. The deadline to submit names is noon on Dec. 7.
Submissions must include the recipient's name, age, telephone number, address and clothing sizes.
Bailey said Angel Tree gifts will be delivered on Dec. 21.
MMC will launch its second annual Secret Santa project the same day.
With Secret Santa, MMC members approach people at any time or location in El Dorado, identify themselves and offer them a gift.
Last year, MMC paid for groceries and gasoline, offered cash gifts, tipped servers at local restaurants and made donations to local churches around town.
MMC has adopted the Fordville neighborhood for Christmas on the Court 2023. The event will begin at noon on Dec. 23 at New Olive Branch Baptist Church, 1548 N. Roselawn.
"It will be open to Fordville residents only," Bailey said.
MMC will distribute gifts, turkeys, hams, rotisserie chickens and canned goods to attendees.
Bailey said if any of the items are left over, MMC will take to other neighborhoods in the city to distribute the excess items.
For more information, call Bailey at 870-310-0391.