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Festival planning requires communication, organization

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — Every Labor Day weekend the corner of Ridge Avenue and Woodford Road in Pleasant Ridge is bustling with activity as area residents gather for the annual Nativity Parish festival.

Organizers say that pulling the weekend together is hard but rewarding work that involves communication, planning ahead and the efforts of dedicated volunteers.

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A large crowd enjoys the entertainment at the Cincinnati Hispanic Fest. (CT file photo)

According to Missy Longeway, who serves as co-chairperson of the festival committee along with two other Nativity parishioners, planning begins with a meeting in mid-January. One of the first steps is contacting the individuals who chaired the festival’s nearly 50 booths the previous year to determine their interest in volunteering again. From there, said Longeway, the festival co-chairs rely on individual volunteers to organize various aspects of the festival. The entertainment coordinator, for example, is responsible for lining up bands for the weekend, and the food coordinator insures festival goers won’t go hungry.

”Our job doesn’t really become too hands-on until the festival gets closer, probably around the end of July,” Longeway said. “Until then it’s mostly just touching base to be sure everything’s coming together. We’re in charge of all the beer, getting the tents ordered, changing up the booths, things like that.”

The festival co-chairpersons’ jobs, along with those of the set-up committee, really get busy the week of the event. “There’s a lot of manual labor involved, including moving the tents and all the set up,” Longeway said. “We might be there from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. Up until then, it’s just being organized and making sure people do what they say they’re going to do.”

Key to a successful parish festival are a variety of activities, plenty of tasty food and good entertainment, said Longeway, At Nativity’s festival the grand raffle is a big draw, along with the bid-and-buy booth and a special kid’s package on Sunday afternoon featuring unlimited rides and a special treat for the younger crowd.

“It’s a way to get the families there when the festival’s not so crowded,” Longeway explained. “I think what makes Nativity’s festival a success is that it’s not just a parish event, but a community event. Pleasant Ridge is a very tight-knit community, and the festival really brings people together.”

The biggest challenge in ensuring the festival weekend is a success is recruiting volunteers, “not necessarily to coordinate, but to the man the booths the entire weekend,” Longeway said. “Sometimes I literally have to beg and plead. I normally go to people who have been out of it for a while or friends I can always count on. About 20 percent of the people in the parish volunteer. Those are the people we can rely on.”

Longeway, who has been a festival volunteer for 12 years and will complete a 3-year commitment as co-chair in 2010, said the experience has been rewarding and that she will definitely continue her involvement. “I really enjoy stuff like this and enjoy being around the people,” she said. “You really learn the ins and outs of the parish.”

Eileen Connelly, OSU can be reached at [email protected].

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