June 22, 2007

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

High summer is family and festival time

Cynthia DewesIf the idea of summer festivals had never been dreamed up before, we’d certainly have to invent it.

Art fairs, community celebrations, historic re-enactments and parish festivals are surely some of the most fun events of the summer. Usually, they can be found fairly close to home and don’t cost much to entertain the whole family.

Our own family likes to begin and end its summers Italian style. The Italian Festival at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis in early June is always a literal feast of sausage, peppers and onions, ethnic custom and spirituality.

And the Little Italy Festival in Clinton over Labor Day weekend features an entire community celebrating its Italian heritage and enjoying Sacred Heart Parish’s famous spaghetti dinners.

We’ve attended parish festivals in Connersville and Jasper and points in between, often to visit priest friends or former neighbors. Sometimes we’ve gone specific places just for the food since we’re not big on gambling, another favorite festival event. Festivals are the one place people will go to actually pay money to eat chicken and noodles away from home.

We used to kid about the Catholic addiction to Bingo, but believe me, there really is such a thing. There are aficionados who spend their summers going from parish festival to parish festival, yelling Bingo! (their version of Ole!) as often as possible at every one. Considering the cost of gas these days, they’re probably lucky just to break even.

It’s a pleasure to sit around having a beer and a hot dog at a parish festival on a warm summer night while at the same time feeling that we’re spending money on a good cause. Not to mention the virtuous feeling when we volunteer our time to run a kids’ fish pond game or serve fried chicken to hungry customers at our own parish celebration.

Art fairs may not have the down-home feeling of parish festivals, but they’re just as interesting. The objects d’art we’ve seen at these events gives new meaning to the word “art.” The metal sculptures from junk, blown glass which could be the inspiration for the name “Twisted Sister,” and vermin-infested macramé hangings prove once again that art, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder.

Such events also reveal a kind of class distinction at work. Neighborhood art fairs like Talbot Street tend to feature cutting edge artworks, weird music and generally funky things to see and do.

On the other hand, the Penrod Art Fair held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art features artists who actually make a living from their work. Professional musicians play symphonic, folk, jazz and rock music at different venues, and popular restaurants provide food booths. It’s not only satisfying, it’s, well, “arty.”

Historic re-enactments provide children with living history lessons, viewers with excitement and participants with a fun way to be someone else for a day. We can see Revolutionary War skirmishes, Civil War battles and Indian encampments within a few miles of home, and without the hardships of their times.

Even towns seem to feel a need to celebrate themselves sometimes. And if they don’t possess any special qualities, they invent some. I know of one small town in another state that calls itself the “Hamburger Capital of the World” and proves it by cooking a block-long hamburger.

Summer has to be one of God’s better creations, and we’re moved to hold festivals to prove it. Aren’t we glad?

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

Local site Links: