July 11, 2014

St. Mary’s 30th annual street dance brings community, parish together

St. Mary Parish in New Albany hosted its 30th annual Family Festival and Street Dance on June 21. There were kids’ games, chicken and dumplings and a street dance. Despite the closure of St. Mary’s Catholic Academy at the end of the 2012-13 school year, the festival has continued to help support the many ministries at the parish. Many members said the festival helps bring the parish family together each year. (Submitted photo)

St. Mary Parish in New Albany hosted its 30th annual Family Festival and Street Dance on June 21. There were kids’ games, chicken and dumplings and a street dance. Despite the closure of St. Mary’s Catholic Academy at the end of the 2012-13 school year, the festival has continued to help support the many ministries at the parish. Many members said the festival helps bring the parish family together each year. (Submitted photo)

By Chris Morris (Special to The Criterion)

NEW ALBANY—At the heart of every parish festival is a faith community’s enjoyment of food, fun and family. And those blessings were all on display during the 30th annual St. Mary’s Festival and Street Dance on June 21.

This year, the festival at St. Mary Parish in New Albany also served another purpose—one more step in the healing process following the closing of St. Mary’s Catholic Academy at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

While parishioners are still sad that their school closed, they have moved on, and are determined to make new memories and attract new members.

“Things happened that led up to the school closing,” said parishioner Kris Jakoby. “Our parish is in a new and exciting chapter of the church’s history.”

Still, the parish’s festival—from the joy of the children’s games and the street dance to the enjoyment of the chicken and dumplings—continues as a favorite tradition for members.

“For me, the festival and street dance is all about the parish family and the community,” said parish member George Ott.

The festival format has changed through the years, but not the motivation for hosting it each summer. While it is a fundraiser, parish members insist it serves a greater purpose.

“The festival has grown and evolved over the years. It’s like a homecoming,” said Tonya Boley, the festival’s chairperson. “It’s a great time to meet friends and have a good time.”

Boley said St. Mary Parish is still active and doing good things for the community. Although there was some concern that the festival would not continue following the school’s closing, the members of the parish wouldn’t let that possibility happen.

“It was a blow to everyone, closing the school,” Boley said. “But we have to stay together. This is one of the oldest festivals around, and people look forward to it.”

Jakoby gave Boley and others credit for keeping the festival alive in 2013.

“I think if it had skipped last year, it would have been huge,” Jakoby said. “We have stayed positive. It’s still a strong event.”

Attendance was up this year. So was participation among parishioners. There were more than 130 volunteers who helped organize and work the one-day event, which included a family festival during the day and an adult-only street dance in the evening.

“I believe that this year’s event was wonderful and a great success,” said Beth Ott, a member of the parish. “Our parish came together and showed how much they support the festival. I know that it is a huge task to undertake and a lot of hard work, but it is all worth it when you see how much it brought everyone together.”

 While the festival format may be tweaked, one thing is certain, according to members. The festival, and St. Mary Parish, is alive and well.
 

(Chris Morris is a member of St. Mary Parish in New Albany.)

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