By Anne Marie Amacher and Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
When St. Vincent School in Keokuk opted to move its annual fall carnival outdoors this year in light of the pandemic, organizers weren’t sure what to expect. “We started the process with limiting our expectations,” said parent and school board member Kendra Abfalter. “We had to envision a whole new outdoor setting and formulate a plan to sanitize each part of the process.”
Weather, too, was a potential obstacle. The forecast called for rain on the day of the carnival, which raises money for the Home and School Association, so organizers moved it back a day. “Luckily, we were blessed with the generous support of our parish members, school staff and parents, which resulted in last-minute volunteers, some incredible silent auction donations and money donations,” Abfalter said.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many parishes and schools to think twice about hosting annual fall festivals and fundraisers. Parish representatives in the diocese say some activities have been impossible to host due to social distancing requirements.
St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport traditionally hosts its fall festival in August. It includes a country store (garage sale) for three days, with a Mass and a festival on Saturday evening, said Paige King of the parish’s office staff. “We decided to cancel the Country Store completely because it’d be nearly impossible to social distance and keep things sanitized. The festival gathering was also cancelled.”
Still, like many parishes in the Diocese of Davenport, St. Alphonsus worked to make sure at least some of the usual traditions continued — in their case, the silent auction and raffle. Parishioners brought baskets to the parish office; staff uploaded photos and item lists to the website, where people could bid. “It actually worked out really well, considering we had never done anything like this before,” King said. The parish mailed raffle tickets to parishioners, so they could sell tickets from home. “We had donations from several local business and an overwhelming amount of support from our parishioners.”
Taking a cue from St. Alphonsus Parish, Holy Family Parish in Davenport is trying a basket raffle this year to replace the annual bazaar held in early November. Both parishes share a pastor, along with St. Peter Parish in Buffalo. Holy Family parishioner Diane Lannan said people have donated 17 baskets so far. “We are going to display them in Enright Hall beginning Oct. 31. Parishioners can bid at the church, by email or text. I will send via email the current bids after the weekend Masses and at the end of each week.”
Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf held its annual Starry Night as a virtual event this year, said Megan Stopulos, Home and School Association president. “It was very successful.” The parish and school did cancel the fall festival and Trunk or Treat, which helps fund the seventh- and eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. To raise funds for the trip, students will decorate yards with Halloween decorations Oct. 30. Members of the Lourdes community will drive by homes and pay to vote for their favorite yards. “It’s the first time we’ve had to do anything like this, but we are hoping it’s a good success to help fund this trip,” Stopulos said.
Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at St Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction, said the parish hoped its traditional event, the Harvest Breakfast, would take place the first Saturday of November. However, because large gatherings are not recommended this year, “We will be having a virtual Harvest Breakfast fundraiser. Instead of buying and donating supplies for breakfast, we are asking our parishioners to make a cash donation for the amount of supplies they would buy and for the amount of their breakfast tickets.”
For St. Vincent School in Keokuk, the outdoor festival format proved to be popular; Abfalter said the event exceeded expectations, even with the last-minute date change. “We were stunned to learn that our attendance and our end profits turned out to be higher than the last several years for this same event.”