I’ll be honest, when I first took over the responsibility of chairing the festival; I wasn’t too thrilled about it. I remembered loving the event as a kid, but as an adult it didn’t really do much for me. It was usually a hot day with a large crowd of people and a lot of chaos. All things that I normally try to avoid! It’s no coincidence then that after the last volunteers stepped away from chairing the event with me that you started to hear announcements wondering whether we should still be having it. I always hate the idea of doing things just because we’ve always done them and the festival seemed like an insane amount of work if it wasn’t bearing fruit beyond the fundraising and being a nice thing for the kids.
In the past three years chairing the event I have been blown away at the end of each weekend by the number of people I saw at the various events, especially on Sunday. It’s crazy to look around during the grounds in that 11-2 prime time and see all of the people that are there. I wouldn’t even be able to throw out an educated guess! Is it 1000 people or more? Whatever the number it is, it’s safe to say that the festival brings in more people than any other event on our calendar! Once I realized the sheer magnitude of this event it didn’t take long for my perspective about the festival to change.
What started for me as an event to raise a lot of money turned into an opportunity for our parish to do ministry to people. If we have more people than any other event in attendance, then doesn’t it make sense for us to try and be more intentional about what we offer as a parish? As I’ve learned from Sherry Weddell’s book, “Forming Intentional Disciples” there are many ways that people can come back to practicing their faith. Sherry uses the term, “Building a bridge of trust” as she describes how things associated with the parish can connect with people who have been away from the faith. With that prinicple in mind we decided to have a time of Adoration in the church during the festival last year to ask Jesus to be present during the day and to minister to all of the people who were on the parish grounds. We also had our evangelization team available to hand out resources to people, answer questions and pray with people. When all was said and done and I thought I had made more mistakes than previous years, I had a few people comment on how that year was “the best one yet”. I thought they were joking but I shouldn’t have been surprised when we gave the Lord a more central location at the event that He touched peoples hearts in a way that gravy burgers and fries couldn’t!
Looking ahead to this year I am hoping that more people can see the parish mission embedded in this event. And not just as a way to reach out to people who have been away from the faith, but as an opportunity for us to build our parish community as well. That’s a small reason why putting the workers list on signup genius was appealing. How many times have we worked a job at the festival and either found ourselves reconnecting with someone we haven’t spoken to in a while or got to know someone new? I’m really hoping that increased accessibility to the workers sign up will allow more people to sign up and limit the number of people that need to be assigned to work a shift. In all honesty I would love to have it fill up completely with volunteers so we didn’t have to assign anyone. Even if that meant that people decided to work more than one shift. That’s not necessarily an expectation that I have, I just think that if we have a great event and a good reason for doing it, then people will respond to that.
It used to be that it was a requirement for parishioners to be involved with the parish festival through volunteering to work a shift, bringing a baked good, and donating something to the Arts and Craft Booth. While we still rely on the support of our parishioners to make the festival a success, the word “requirement” doesn’t really fit anymore. With all of our schedules filling up more and more, we can’t blame people for scheduling vacations or choosing other activities over the festival each year. At the same time we’re extremely grateful for those who continue to give of their time and resources to make the festival a tremendous success each year.
Please consider joining us for our 2018 Parish Festival on July 26-29th or helping out in any way that you are able. Together we can continue to make this event something that will be a staple of our parish community for years to come!