Beer gardens, rock bands and carnival rides are probably not the first images associated with Catholic religion, but those two worlds will come together Friday to help St. Mary School in DeKalb.
The 10th annual St. Mary September Fest will kick off today at 5 p.m. with a concert by Back Country Roads to start at 7 p.m. outside St. Mary School on 210 Gurler Road. The festival will continue on Saturday and Sunday at noon.
Michelle Anderson, chairwoman for the September Fest committee, said despite the flash and flair of the weekend event, it is still rooted in building a strong faith community as all the proceeds go back to the school.
For the past decade, the fest has been a great way to introduce new families to the church and school in a welcoming environment while also giving those families a chance to get know each other.
“This was started years ago to bring parish and school together,” Anderson said. “You see the same people year after year and really get to know them.”
Some of the regulars include the Catholic Daughters, who run an ice cream and bake sale every year, and the Hispanic ministry, which has a food booth as well as a traditional dance performance.
But the people who make Anderson most excited for the event are the students, she said. She said the fest is a great way to give the children a boost early in the school year and help them come together and make new friends.
“The kids love it. It’s an exciting way for them to come back to school knowing the fest will be at the end of September,” Anderson said. “It’s a good place for kids to become better friends.”
Kellie Fuss said the welcoming environment of the fest is one of the reasons she joined the committee to plan this year’s Family Day, which follows Sunday Mass at the school.
Fuss said the event has helped her meet new people and helped her second-grade son make friends as well. Building a strong church and school community is even more beneficial than the monetary donation the fest provides the school, she said.
“Since we’ve been involved we’ve really met a lot of families and started friendships,” she said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
The fun will include concerts Friday and Saturday night from bands including The Relics and Evolution while Sunday’s festivities will be hosted by DJ Shawn Lowe from Q98.5.
Both organizers said staples such as the beer garden, book and music sale, carnival rides and games, food vendors and cupcake walk would be back at the festival.
Anderson said the festival has become a community event even non-members enjoy, such as the sponsors who make it possible. But with all the work that goes into planning the festival, there is no guarantee it will be back next year as the decision to bring it back is made on a year-by-year basis, Anderson said.
“We have wonderful sponsors that are very generous every year that don’t even have children at the school but they still enjoy it,” Anderson said. “It really is a great event and a fun time for everyone so we hope we can continue it next year.”
If you go
What: St. Mary September Fest
Where: St. Mary School grounds, 210 Gurler Road, DeKalb
When: 5 to 10 p.m. today, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday