At its annual festival last year, which celebrated its 130th anniversary Holy Spirit Parish, Fremont, brought in a number of gourmet food truck vendors.
ALBERT C. PACCIORINI/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Parish festivals a time of food, fun and fellowship
Raising fun — and funds
Fall festivals are a time-honored tradition, filling parish parking lots and school playgrounds with food, fun and, perhaps most importantly, fellowship.
There's nostalgia as a new generation masters the bean bag toss that Mom or Dad once did themselves. It's saying yes to cotton candy. It's toting around a string of tickets as long as your arm and seeing how many games, snow cones and knickknacks you can get before asking Mom for more money.
Parishes pack as much fun and games into a day or two of festivities, but it could be hard to top Our Lady of Grace Parish in Castro Valley. "Once Upon a Time" is the theme for the festival, which runs noon to 10 p.m. Sept. 23 and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 24.
Two days of nonstop entertainment — including high school bands and local dance schools; pancake breakfast, food booth and a food truck; games; karaoke; chili cook-off; pasta dinner; booths selling books, jewelry and children clothes; and more — could leave one breathless.
But then you'd miss the grand finale — the raffle — that ends the festival by 7 p.m. Sept. 24.
The icing on the raffle cake just might be that in addition to supporting the parish and the school, the event supports the community. Ten percent of the net will be donated to a local family charity. Past recipients have included Hayward-based Family Emergency Shelter Coalition (FESCO); Catholic Charities of the East Bay; Oakland Catholic Worker; and St. Mary's Center in Oakland.
"People in Castro Valley love our festival," said Colleen Lindberg, business manager of Our Lady of Grace Parish. It's not unusual for grandparents, who recall fun times they've had in the more than 40 years of festivals, to bring their grandchildren.
School children participate in a design contest, with the winning design printed on the annual T-shirt.
The festival also offers the opportunity for an additional Sunday Mass. It's celebrated on the festival stage at 9 a.m. "It's a nice witness to who we are," Lindberg said.
St. Joseph Parish in Pinole is hosting its 39th Oktoberfest Oct. 7-8. "This is a very close community," said Aura Mendeta, parish business manager. "It's an opportunity to renew friendships," she said, "and invite new people."
It's also an opportunity to support the parish and the school. Proceeds from the festival will be split equally between them. The school's portion supports tuition assistance, Mendeta said.
"We have the whole community helping us," Mendeta said. It's such a major event that planning begins early. "We usually start right after Lent," she added.
With such a worthy goal, it's important to maximize those proceeds. The cost of the food for the festival is defrayed by proceeds from a pasta feed on Sept. 30, a week before the festival begins. Three hundred people can be seated at the dinner, and 10 to 15 gift baskets are raffled.
The diversity of the St. Joseph community is reflected. There's a booth for food of every ethnicity, Mendeta said, with volunteers chairing each booth.
School parents earn service hours for their participation.
In addition to the array of foods, there are games for the children.
"It's a family affair," Mendeta said. The festival began in the 1970s, and the children who recall those early festivals now are the parents watching their own children have some fun.
Tickets are required to attend the Sept. 30 pasta dinner, from 6 to 9 p.m. The festival hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 7 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 8.
St. Philip Neri-St. Albert the Great Fun Fair is aptly named because the annual parish festival, which will be Sept. 23, is packed with fun! So much fun in fact that the street outside the parish has to be closed down in order to accommodate the event's many attractions. There will be a video game truck where youths can go inside to play video games. Kids may also want to climb onboard fire trucks or check out police vehicles that will be brought to the fair by Alameda's fire and police departments. A smaller version of the USS Hornet will also be brought to the event to add to the wow factor.
Live hourly entertainment at the Alameda fair, located at the corner of High and Van Buren streets, will be provided by the parish's youth choir and school choir. There will also be new and returning games like the cake walk and tricycle race.
Food booths, another signature element of the fun fair, will be on site and will include such culinary goodness as pizza, barbeque and Filipino food. A beer garden will be available for adults and a pasta dinner ($15 adults and $10 for kids 12 years and younger) for the family.
Just because the fair ends on a Saturday doesn't mean that the parish fun is over. The following morning after Mass the parish is hosting a pancake breakfast ($10 adults, $6 children 12 and under), which will be followed by a raffle drawing with a $1,000 grand prize.
While the fun isn't technically in the title of the 11th Annual International Festival at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord, the event, which takes place Sunday, Oct. 1, has fun written all over it, according to Fred Schaub, the parish's business manager.
"It is major fun," Schaub said, noting that people who have attended over the years rave about everything from the food to the live entertainment.
The event begins with a multicultural Mass at 10 a.m., with prayers and music featuring three languages predominately spoken in the parish — English, Spanish and Tagalog. As in years past turnout is expected to include about 2,000 or more people.
The festival's success follows a difficult period in parish history, Schaub said. Geographically the parish is made up of Walnut Creek, a mostly white-collar community, and a Concord neighborhood known as the Monument Corridor made up of mostly lower income Spanish speaking people that formerly was part of Hispanic Concord Ministry. This ministry was created to provide pastoral care to the growing Spanish speaking community at a time when there were not enough Spanish speaking priests to minister to them.
When the Hispanic ministry disbanded in 2005 the Spanish speaking community was absorbed in three Concord parishes and a good number of those families became members at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. This created a "them vs. us" tension in the parish with some English speaking parishioners feeling that the newcomers were "taking over the church," Schaub said.
The international festival was created as part of the effort to bring people together, Schaub said. Each ethnic group, which also included Polish, French, Mexican communities, along with the parish school was recruited to participate in the event which became a "roaring success," he said.
"'Us vs. them' became all of us," Schaub said. "It really brought people together and helped heal wounds. People have really taken this on."
A host of gastronomic delights await visitors at this international festival which includes 70 food booths representing French, Polish, Filipino, Vietnamese foods as well as hot dogs and hamburgers cooked up by the local Knights of Columbus council chefs.
After the Mass the afternoon's activities is filled with lots of games for kids, live entertainment that include Filipino music, Aztec dancers and karate and tae kwon do demonstrations.
"It's a mix of everything," Schaub said.
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