Century-old festival excites again

Published 12:02 am Sunday, September 25, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Loiuse Mallory, left, and Kate Ferguson share a laugh during adult night at Cathedral’s 2011 Fall Festival Saturday. Games for children continue at noon today.

NATCHEZ — Fall festival may be the biggest fundraiser of the year for Cathedral School, taking more than 100 volunteers to pull it off.

But it’s the opportunity for teamwork that makes this weekend’s 164th festival worthwhile, volunteer Betty Lou Hicks said.

In 60 years, Hicks, a Cathedral alumna, has missed only one fall festival.

Her grandchildren now enjoy the games, like the cakewalk and pinwheel, like she once did.

“I’m 64, and I’ve been (attending fall fest) since I was 4 years old. I only missed it when my grandmother died,” Hicks said.

Hicks said the festival allows Cathedral families a chance to come together and give back to the school.

“As important as the money is, the camaraderie of working together as a school family (is better,)” Hicks said.

Amy Gamberi, the co-chair of the festival and mother of two Cathedral students, said the festival has raised approximately $130,000 in the past.

Cathedral Elementary School Principal Shannon Bland said the funds raised at the festival will go toward the school’s operating costs and work to keep tuition lower than it would be without the fundraiser.

Gamberi, who worked until 1:30 a.m. Saturday setting up the stage for the festival, said she couldn’t possibly calculate the number of hours she has spent working on the festival.

And since her husband will join her as the other co-chair for next year’s festival, Gamberi said the couple only gets a two-week break before planning for the 165th festival kicks into gear.

Gamberi said families are so willing to help out with the festival that she has to make an effort to include everyone.

“Those who don’t get asked to donate get offended,” Gamberi said.

No shortage of volunteers are willing to help out, whether they are new to Cathedral or belong to a long line of generations to attend the school, Gamberi said.

“And we’ll put you to work,” Gamberi said.

Approximately 20 sponsors donated items or monetary gifts for an auction for Saturday night’s Adult Night.

“Usually it’s standing room only,” Gamberi said of the parents-only event.

And families also donated cakes, casseroles and other homemade items for the festival, and approximately 3,200 raffle tickets were sold.

Hicks said she saw one young girl win three cakes at the cakewalk, and the girl’s grandmother baked two of the three cakes she won.

Hicks said she remembers attending fall festival — apparently the oldest continually running festival in the state — as a child.

“I can remember (winning) those finger traps, and I thought I had won gold,” Hicks said.

While the festival is full of tradition, Green Wave volunteers never rest of their laurels.

Hicks looked around the yard with sweaty children running around, some holding goldfish, huge inflatable crayons or other prizes, and noted where improvements could be made.

Next year it might be time to replace booths for the 15 or so vendors and game stations that Freddie Voss built 40 years ago, Gamberi said.

Gamberi said the beautiful weather along with participation from parents, most of the staff and students made Saturday afternoon a successful first day.

And Gamberi plans on celebrating another great festival by sinking into her couch this afternoon.

“I can’t even imagine how good the couch will feel,” she said.