St. Margaret Mary Festival proceeds to help ministries, Lower Burrell fire companies
The first night of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church’s festival Friday was more like a vibrant community party in the heart of Lower Burrell.
Sunny weather aided the parish’s biggest fundraiser to attract a huge crowd that was hungry for family fun for young to old, music and games, congenial conversation with friends and strangers, and food.
Lots of food.
“About 1,400 people were here Friday night,” said the Rev. Ken Zaccagnini, parish priest, on Saturday afternoon.
Continuing good weather Saturday evening — even with a nice breeze — promised another great crowd.
Zaccagnini said the parish is thankful for being able to pay off the parish’s debt. The believers want to return that blessing.
“So we are giving to others,” he said.
As a result, one-third of the festival proceeds will be given to the Lower Burrell No. 1 and No. 3 fire companies, he said. The rest will be spent on ministries across the area, “Father Ken” said.
The fire department volunteers pay for their own training just so they can help citizens, Zaccagnini said, “so when you help fire companies you are giving to yourself,” he said. “It’s money well spent.”
Parish member Tom Halucak of Lower Burrell, said the festival is the parish’s largest fundraiser.
“And we will help our fire departments,” he smiled.
Station 3 President Mike Ogurchock said an engine has been sent to be rehabbed and the station is starting to repair and paint its firehall along Leechburg Road.
If there was a prize at a fair for gift baskets, like the contest for the best pies, someone from the parish would probably win.
More than 130 baskets — each from individuals and families, named and anonymous — showed polish, thinking and ingenuity.
Parish members and visitors flooded the narthax to see the baskets, including two donated by Zaccagnini.
One, titled “Money to Burn,” included a nice charcoal grill and $150 in real money on top of a bag of briquettes.
Zaccagnini donated another $150 on a huge wall clock that would probably be at home in a library or church.
“We paid off our debt, and now we feel we’re sound that we can help others,” said parishioner Gail Cook of Upper Burrell.
Church member Ed Lloyd of Lower Burrell and guest Paula Massarelli of Monroeville, were impressed by the baskets.
“I am in awe,” Massarelli said. “I have never seen baskets like these. So much thought went into them.”
Meanwhile, the line was growing longer and longer to bid on the baskets.
Two Lower Burrell auxiliary policemen were busy stopping traffic for people to get across Leechburg Road to attend the festival.
Funnel cake success
In just a few scant hours Friday, the four-parish Knights of Columbus booth sold out an incredible two days’ worth of funnel cakes, festival coordinator Ariel Schroeder said.
“It was the first Friday night start of the festival without rain in years, and we had one of the biggest crowds,” she said.
“We knew it was going to be a good night. It turned out to be a great night,” said Bob Krajcki, treasurer for the Knights of Columbus for St. Margaret Mary in Lower Burrell, and St. Joseph’s, Mount St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s Catholic churches, all in New Kensington.
“There was a line at our funnel cake booth since we started Friday, and it didn’t start to slow down until about 9:30 p.m.,” he said.
It takes about five to seven minutes to pour and cook a funnel cake, and the men cook them four at a time, Krajcki said.
The Knights of Columbus will use the money for its charities, including free coats for children, he said.
The festival started many years ago as a multi-day parish bazaar and flea market.
The newer, two-day fundraiser now feeds Meals On Wheels, a community clothing closet, and many other ministries for the parish with almost 2,000 families.
In addition to funnel cakes, pierogies and meatballs were high in demand from the booths of local restaurants and caterers.
The food booths opened at 4 p.m. Saturday and some festival-goers already had arrived to enjoy them.
But the party would only get better after 5 p.m. when the Saturday night Mass was celebrated and dinnertime came.
A few children’s rides kept the youngest happy until they, too, got something to eat.
White tents with decorative lighting gave a festive, almost holiday feel to the event.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .