Before the crowds gathered last Friday night for the beginning of weekend festivities at Tiverton's Feast, the parishioners prayed.
“We usually open our feast on the Wednesday before, when we have Mass; and to me, that’s important,” said Karen Lucas, who has served as co-chair of the event for the past 10 years. “Father Peter Andrews’ sermon was focused on the feast and that we are not here for ourselves, we’re here for our parish and our Lord.”
With this annual benediction, the more than 100 dedicated volunteers look forward to another successful event.
“It’s always wonderful, and we do very well, regardless of the weather,” Lucas said.
She takes the role of chairperson in stride.
“For the chairpersons, it’s really not a difficult thing,” she said. “What makes the feast successful is everyone else coming forward, giving their time, talent and treasure.”
“The volunteers here are a great bunch of people who work together very well,” added co-chair Ray LePage.
Last February the feast committee scheduled their first meeting.
“We have months of meetings, and we line up all the people, plan what tents we’re going to get and sponsors,” said LePage. “We think about what we did last year and what changes we could do to make things better this year.”
Lucas acknowledged that “it takes a lot of hands” to pull together a feast of this magnitude.
“The chairperson of each of the venues reaches out to their friends to bring them on board,” she said.
This year the kitchen staff changed hands.
“The people who ran it in prior years thought it was time to pass the torch,” she said.
Manning the ticket booth early Saturday afternoon, Andy Lavoie was busy making announcements over the loud speaker and handing tickets to parents, whose excited children held cotton candy and Slush cones.
Lavoie has been a parishioner of St. Theresa’s since the founding of the church over 50 years ago.
“It’s our main fundraiser for the parish,” he said of the feast, pointing to an unusual garden of carved wooden roses bearing the names of feast sponsors. “We have a lot of advertisers posted on the St. Theresa roses.”
The patron saint of the parish, St. Theresa of Liseux, said, “I will let fall from Heaven … a shower of roses. I will spend my Heaven doing good on Earth.”
Like the saint, these patrons were doing good indeed, as the place bustled with happy feast goers.
In the children’s activity tent, lovely Gianna Wesling played the Ring Toss. Using a wooden hammer, Nathan and Conner Tavares took turns as swashbucklers, while dad Andrew Tavares looked on.
A table filled with religious goods and another of jewelry attracted passersby.
In the huge food tent, folks sampled shrimp Mozambique, lobster salad rolls, barbeque chicken, littlenecks and shish kabobs, as well as typical faire, such as hamburgers, Coney Island hot dogs and French fries, topped off with the feast’s signature root beer floats and homemade malassadas.
People milled around the central stage awaiting the performance of The Blues Crew, a rhythm and blues review made up of fellow parishioners, the Swass family – mom, dad and their six children.
On Sunday, the giant auction is the main attraction.
“We have from bottles of wine and sweet breads to livestock – chickens, a steer, turkeys and two rabbits,” said Lavoie laughing, adding that the number of bunnies may have grown.
A parishioner for the past 27 years, Lucas said that their mission on the first weekend of August every year is always to bring the community together.
“It’s wonderful community time; that’s what we really strive for,” she said. “It’s not what gets put into the parish treasury account, it’s the community it builds, the friendships made along the way, and the new people we get to meet – the parishioners who we see in the pews but didn’t know their names.”
LePage said that it was impossible to determine how many people attend the feast this year.
“People will be coming and going all day long,” he said.
Lavoie added that this year they have a lighted parking lot on Eagleville Road and a new sidewalk put in by a parishioner.
“They’ll go home and come back tonight,” he said. “This place is going to be jammed.”