St. Gerard Festival offers family fun

Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News Bryson Vinson blows up an inflatable monkey while working a game tent on Friday for the start of the St. Gerard festival. The monkeys are hung around the tent by their tails and Vinson hopes the winds stay calm, or there will be monkeys all over the place.

LIMA — Before becoming a mom, Carol Van Meter would go to the St. Gerard Festival in the evening hours.

Now a mother, she brought her daughter, Courtney, and her daughter’s friend to enjoy the rides during the day Saturday.

“They want to ride the rides and see what kind of fun games they can play,” Van Meter said.

Elephant ears, funnel cakes or anything sweet would satisfy the girls, she said.

“I’m here for the kids,” she said.

Van Meter and the two girls were just three of the estimated 20,000 people who will attend the festival this weekend.

For many, it’s an annual tradition.

Festival co-chair Sam Briggs has been making or selling chicken wings, a staple at the festival and highly sought after meal, for more than 20 years.

“We do 4,000 pounds in two and a half days,” Briggs said.

Friday night the line to get wings was 90 minutes. In case someone was too hungry to wait, there was pizza, Mexican food and various sweets.

“It started with one tent so you can see what happened in 37 years,” the Rev. Jim Szobonya of St. Gerard Catholic Church said.

For Szobonya, it was his first festival but he understands the tradition.

“It builds our community. People come together. A lot of people come here for reunions. Families that have been doing this for years come from out of state,” he said.

Hundreds of people volunteer at the festival in many jobs working the cake wheel or cooking food to help raise money for the church, which mainly goes to fund the school, Szobonya said.

Sunday was expected to be another busy day with the festival’s family day where children can ride the rides an unlimited number of times for $20.

Near the cake wheel was Angela Conley, of Lima. She already had seven cakes and it didn’t sound like she and her family members were done yet.

“We play every year. We won a lot of stuff,” she said. “We were looking for this type of cake right here, pineapple angel food cake.”

Conley said she also likes to gamble. Her mother won $50 through the instant tickets and they were hoping to win the $330 maximum.

Whatever the reason people go to the festival, whether it’s the food, the bands, the rides, the others, this weekend it was the place to be in Lima.

“It’s a nice family oriented place people can just come here and kick off the summer,” Szobonya said.

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