Driving in my neighborhood I see signs for church festivals at St. Joan of Arc and St Michael’s churches, both in our area of Columbus. They remind me of church festivals growing up in Youngstown. Admittedly, I felt a bit outside of these in that I didn’t grow up Catholic. But I also found that no one checked my parish membership when I joined my friends at their church festivals.
Usually, I would go to the one at Holy Name, which was the parish that served our part of the West Side of Youngstown. What do I remember? I remember rides, games of chance, which I mostly lost, great food made by the women of the parish, especially good Italian food, and polkas and other ethnic music of the nationalities represented in our area.
I don’t fully understand the economics of church festivals but I would guess that they contribute a good amount to parish budgets. Money spent at the festivals meant a good time and in the back of one’s mind was the sense that it went toward the parish–so it was all good. Plus, it was a good way to get a bit extra from non-Catholics like me!
I think these festivals served an important function in bringing our community together, Catholic or not, religious or not. It also helped the hard-working people in our area celebrate the last weeks of summer before school, work, and home obligations absorbed our time. Like other types of celebrations (I think particularly of weddings and the receptions that followed), they recognized that there was much good in life in family, good food, music and dancing, and just plain fun. While work could be hard, whether in the factory or home, not all of life was hard.
.I’d enjoy hearing your memories of church and community festivals. What were your favorite foods? What were your favorite activities?