Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall Festival

Last weekend was the annual Fall Festival for St. Joseph School, the school which I attended from kindergarten to eighth grade. I have always enjoyed going to the Festival, but after a certain point, there is little to be done there. Most of the games are targeted for children, which leaves mostly the food, music, and only a few more adult games. Therefore, when I started high school my friend and I decided to run a booth instead of spending all day playing.

The booth we ran was the Alumni Booth, which has varied over the years as to what type of game is played. The concept is the same from year to year, in that every person wins a prize; some prizes are great (cruises, a TV, hotel stays) and some prizes are crappy (mouse pads, key chains, pens). Since all the prizes are donated, we have no real expenses, unless we rent a gaming apparatus like a BINGO set or have to buy balloons, etc. These kinds of games attract children for their simplicity and fun factor, and attract adults for the big prizes.

For the last several years, my friend Emily and I have been running and working the booth entirely ourselves: collecting prizes, numbering/organizing prizes, setting up the booth, running the booth, taking down the booth. We have done so with little instruction and little outside help, because we're good that way. However, it is quite tiring and time-consuming to do all the work ourselves, work for nine hours, and then take down the booth in the end. Rewarding, yes, but still tiring.

This year, my friend is pregnant and is limited by how much she can do with the booth. We decided mutually at the end of last year's Festival to take a less active role in the booth, or at least find more workers to run it for us. Given Emily's condition (she is in her 8th month of pregnancy) we decided not to actually run the booth but hand over the reins to someone else. Otherwise, the workload would have fallen entirely on me, and I was not in the mood to do everything all by myself. At any rate, another woman was put in charge, and we were given the task of simply running the booth from 10 am to 1 pm, a much shorter shift than the 10-7 to which we had become accustomed.

This year was also different from years past because the location of the Festival was not at the school. SJS is building a new gym on the property, so it would therefore be an unsafe location on which to hold a Festival. Luckily my parish church, St. Albert's, has a large tract of land that would easily accommodate the Festival, so it would be held there. There were some drawbacks to this of course: a fairly unknown location (most of the students/parents of SJS attend other parishes), a residential-type area that is less-traveled and more hidden from the public, and of course many former students enjoy going back to the school and seeing what progress has been made since they last attended there. These obstacles were foreseen, and therefore the Festival almost didn't happen, but in the end people figured even if attendance was down from years past, at least some money would be made for the school.

To say attendance was down would be an understatement. When we arrived shortly before 10 am, it was in the 30s or 40s with a biting wind. As the day progressed, the weather did not improve and people seemingly decided to stay home. There did seem to be a fair amount of people there with which to make a successful Festival, but not nearly as many as last year's, when the weather was quite different (in the 70s). Emily did our three hours at the booth with moderate success, and were done right after 1 pm.

The food at the Fall Festival is usually what draws people in the most. The whole Festival is centered around delicious barbeque: pulled pork sandwiches, bbq chickens, bbq ribs, etc. Of course, being Mr. Food, I had to partake of the barbeque. In the course of that day I had two pulled pork sandwiches, one for lunch after my shift at the booth and one for dinner later when my parents decided to stop by. At some point after I had gotten my first sandwich, I went home to get out of the weather and eat in peace. By that point, the attendance was the highest of the entire day, since lunchtime is usually when the most people come to the Festival.

I returned to the festivities at 5 pm for Saturday night Mass, followed by more barbeque. By this point, the Festival was dying down, as it had become bitterly cold and windy. We got some more bbq and took it inside one of the heated parish buildings, which had better accommodations than the outdoor tents and tables.

Despite the weather and change of venue, I was still proud of the Festival that my former school put together. It does feel good to give back and work for a good cause, though I think most of us would have liked a less wintry day and a more fall-like day. The food was excellent, the entertainment was nice, and the games drew a lot of excitement, especially with the children. Emily and I have decided next year to maybe put in a little more effort at the booth; it almost didn't feel like enough to simply work the booth while someone else did all the work of organization, etc. Although, hopefully, if we do take on a larger role, there will still be workers that can take on some of the shifts. That way we can still enjoy the rest of the Festival and not be tied down to a booth all day. All in all, I had a good time.