LIMA — Every year the St. Gerard Festival brings in thousands of dollars to help with the ministry and programs at St. Gerard Catholic Church and elementary school in Lima.
It’s their biggest money-maker.
This is the 40th year for the festival.
“It really started with just one tent and the parishioners of the church, kind of a summer festival, getting the parishioners together. Now it’s really a whole Lima festival where the whole town really comes out for the three-day event. We went from one tent to 14 tents,” said festival Chair Mike Mays.
While youngsters can enjoy the carnival rides and the kids’ games, the adults have live music to listen to, beer to drink, and dozens of ways of giving their money to the church through various games of chance.
Whether it’s the instant tickets, Pot of Gold tickets or the $10,000 Big Raffle, this way of raising money has been an integral part of many Catholic parishes, including St. Gerard’s.
In 1990, the Toledo Catholic Diocese, of which St. Gerard is a member, actually ordered parishes to reduce their reliance on events like bingo and festivals to reduce gambling.
Since then, the St. Gerard Festival and other Catholic festivals have continued to evolve with finding other ways of raising money, like selling beer or chicken dinners and tickets for carnival rides.
“They were trying because they didn’t want to get gambling because people get addicted to gambling and stuff of that nature. When it’s a good spirited thing, people gamble but they contribute, they’re contributing to a good cause and stuff like that because it’s only for once a year, they’re not getting addicted. They’re not coming here every week. BINGO was something that it was weekly or sometimes two or three times a week so the festival it takes on a different light,” said Rev. Jim Szobonya.
St. Gerard no longer has BINGO nights.
These festivals still bring in people who enjoy the opportunity to put down a few quarters to win a cake or other prize.
Since the games of chance at the festival are just that, games of chance, there’s not much strategy to winning these games, except a little prayer.
“You just pick a number and hope it hits,” said Keri Carpenter who tried her luck at winning a cake. “We got six or seven items in the car. I got my good luck charm, my husband, and my dad,” she added.
New this year is the live duck races, but picking the winning duck from among the others isn’t anything but chance or is it?
“I let my seven-year-old pick,” said Brianna Hamilton with a laugh.
Apparently, there’s no rhyme or reason for the choice. “They’re always different ducks and the numbers so just pick one and hope for the best, I guess,” she added.
She picked Lucky Duck. But unfortunately, Lucky Duck wasn’t so lucky this race.
As for the legality of these games of chance, the St. Gerard Festival is well within what is allowed by the State of Ohio.
Ohio law allows organizations with F and F-2 temporary permits to set up “schemes of chance” allowing tip tickets, football pools, raffles, and other schemes where the definition is payment of something of value for a chance to win a prize. “Games of chance” are also allowed such as poker, a punch board, are also legal. Activities not allowed include craps for money, roulette for money or slot machines.
Pull tabs or tip tickets fall within the definition of “scheme of chance” and allows charitable organizations to conduct schemes of chance as a charitable fundraiser.
Sunday is the final day of the three-day festival. Organizers hope to sell one thousand chicken dinners at $8 a dinner to help fill the church and school coffers.
The $10,000 raffle drawing will be at 9 p.m. Sunday to close things out. It costs $20 a ticket.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.