Attendees ride the Pharaoh’s Fury at the OLPH Festival in 2005. The South Toledo church recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and its final festival.
Toledo’s annual round of church and neighborhood festivals is under way again, presenting area residents with great opportunities for weekend activities.
Large crowds recently flocked to the festivals held at the same time in the Old West End and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in South Toledo.
But it’s disquieting that two Toledo churches that have held annual festivals are getting out of the business.
St. Patrick of Heatherdowns announced May 3 that it would not hold its annual festival this year. Too much work, not enough money.
And OLPH’s festival was its last — for now, anyway. The final summer blow-out saw some of the best weather and biggest crowds in the festival’s 23-year-old modern history, which made it bittersweet.
The reasons for forgoing the festival were about the same as at St. Patrick’s — too much demand on the volunteers who have done the work for years in return for a modest amount of money for the parish.
The chairman of OLPH’s festival said the volunteer energy that went into OLPH’s three-day annual extravaganza would be channeled into other activities that make money but don’t require as much capital and labor.
One thing about OLPH’s and all church festivals is that they attract fairgoers from outside the church membership. The beer, the gambling, the rock music, the elephant ears, the chicken dinners, and the rides have no religious content. They’re just fun.
They bring back to the community former parishioners and young people who have graduated from college, and throw together parishioners who don’t get a chance to talk at church.
The churches might try going with a beer-less, carnival-ride-less, and rock band-less festival (but don’t even try to make them give up the 50-50 lottery). It would be fun for everyone involved, but the revenue would be modest compared to the kind of income beer and carnival festivals generate.
The announcement on Facebook of St. Patrick of Heatherdowns’ decision to give up its annual festival generated nearly three dozen comments. One commenter expressed the concern that a way of life is fading.
“It breaks my heart to see family activities such as these festivals shutting their doors. Another reason for our kids to sit with a phone in one hand and video game in the other. Because when they say there’s nothing to do, it’s getting truer and truer every single day,” the writer said.
That may be too pessimistic. It’s more likely that people have too much to do, and don’t have the spare time for some traditional activities that are more relaxed.
Besides, churches and neighborhoods have been known to close a festival only to see it come come back a few years later with a fresh round of volunteers.
For OLPH festival volunteers there’s a bright side: Next year, they can take in the Old West End Festival.
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