It’s not too early to think about your parish festival

| Tom Bengtson | March 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

ticketsIt’s Lent, so that means it’s time to think about your parish’s fall festival. The annual fundraiser may be six months away, but many parishes already have identified volunteers to head up the organizing effort.

A year ago about this time, I received a phone call from a fellow parishioner who tried to recruit me to head up a portion of the festival. She left a message on my answering machine. After listening to the message, I did what any Minnesotan would do who doesn’t want to disappoint an acquaintance: I ignored the message and didn’t return the call.

My thinking was: “I hate the fall festival. No way I’m getting roped into helping out.” I really thought that if the parish needs the money, it could save everyone a lot of trouble by simply conducting a second collection at Mass.

After about a week, however, my colleague at the parish called again. This time, I made the mistake of picking up the phone. She explained she only needed one more volunteer — someone to arrange the outdoor games: the dunk tank, inflatable slide, pony rides, that kind of thing. I told her I’d think about it — even pray about it — and get back to her. But I didn’t call her back.

Giving in

Clearly my friend was put in charge of the festival for a reason. She called me again, polite as ever, and asked if I had a chance to pray over my decision. At that point, I couldn’t resist any longer and gave in. I told her I’d do it. After hanging up the phone, I was certain I was going to regret it.

Over a period of a couple of months, there were many festival planning meetings. Two-hour meetings gave the various volunteers an opportunity to share details about every aspect of the festival — the dinner, the raffle, bingo, the beer garden, entertainment, a basketball tournament and silent auction.

The details were incredible: Should we use dark or light tablecloths at the dinner? Should the raffle tickets cost $2 or $5? Who was going to set up the tables and chairs under the beer garden tent? Should the horn section in the swing band be amplified? Where can we get a couple of refs for the b-ball tourney, and what items attract the best bids in a silent auction?

None of it had anything to do with me and I thought I was going to go nuts.

A few days before the festival, I had all the outdoor games arranged when I got a call from the rental company. They told me they wouldn’t be able to provide a dunk tank as promised. Oh no! Where was I going to get a dunk tank at the last minute?

Well, after only one sleepless night, I found another company renting dunk tanks. Problem solved. There were other glitches that popped up, but all proved to be equally inconsequential.

The day of the festival, the sun shined brightly. I was there from early morning to late at night, and I saw hundreds of people spend time at the festival. Almost all of them looked like they truly had fun. I couldn’t believe how many little kids went back for another turn at the simplest of games — the beanbag toss, the clothespin drop in the bottle. Even my shift in the dunk tank was fun. (The secret is to fill the tank with warm water.)

Building community

Reflecting back on my experience, I completely changed my opinion about the parish festival.

I now see that the effort is worth it, not because of the money raised but because of the relationships that were fostered. There is something about working together on a volunteer committee where everyone is striving toward a common goal. You grow closer to people in the process. I have no doubt that stronger friendships ultimately translate into a stronger parish.

So, if you get a call from someone organizing your parish festival, take their call and say “yes” right away when they ask you to volunteer.

It’s work, but reward follows.

Bengtson is a local small business owner and writer. You can contact Bengtson by visiting his website.

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Category: Social Concerns