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PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” It must be August when you see back-to-school commercials on television and the 73rd Saints Cosmas & Damian (SS.C.D.) Lawn Festival is ready to begin. The festival begins Friday and runs through Sunday with the proceeds going to the SS.C.D. Catholic School.
"This is my 19th year as the festival chairman; I succeeded Tom and Joanne Uberti after having been their assistant for several years," said Frank Hetrick, festival chairperson.
Hetrick said both of his children, Ryan and Shawn, attended school at SS.C.D. Elementary School and now live in Los Angeles, Calif.
"I remain committed to doing the festival because I strongly believe in Catholic education in Punxsutawney," Hetrick said, adding that it's a great school with a great staff and great parents.
"Back in 1970, I saw a letter from the three pastors at the time that they wanted to earmark the money from the festival for the school's operational fund because the Sisters' of Mercy contract was going to be up, and they needed to raise money for the school," he said. "The ministry team decided to earmark the money strictly for the school."
Hetrick said 1974 was the first year that the Lawn Festival's proceeds went directly to the school.
He said there has been an upgrade to the schoolâ€™s curriculum and the physical plant over the years.
"The school has a great MAC lab, and Msgr. Joseph J. Riccardo, pastor, purchased 30 iPads to use for the coming school year," Hetrick said, adding that a few years ago, SS.C.D. added a preschool.
He said six years ago the committee decided to have entertainment come in for the festival, and Jeff Curtis, committee member, oversees that portion of the event.
Hetrick said there will be a magic show Friday, put on by Rich Kosak from Rochester Mills, will be appearing and disappearing on the festival stage.
There will be a three-on-three basketball tournament on Friday and Saturday to make use of "our beautiful gym," he said.
Hetrick said there's a registration form in the booklet that was distributed through the July 26 issue of The Punxsutawney Spirit.
Even though he's the chairperson, there is a tremendous number of people who help: Mike and Sharon Klingensmith, Carol Marasco, Lisa Phillips, Lynn Hess, Joe Nogacek, Sam Mennetti, Jeff and Kim Curtis, Denny Bianco, the SS.C.D. School parents and Tim O'Connor who recruit Bingo volunteers.
He said the organizations that also help include Home and School Association, Catholic Daughters of America (CDA), Rosary-Altar Society, Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent-DePaul and the Secular Franciscans.
"All of these groups pitch in and help operate the booths," he said. "The volunteers who help put the festival on are invaluable to the parish."
There will continue to be games of skill for young and old alike and small games of chance.
Hetrick said the grand prize is the focal point and brings a lot of people to the festival.
CDA has purchased 60 gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream in State College, Hetrick said, adding that the festival will have its traditional Sunday buffet Luncheon in the air conditioned Wienker Auditorium following the 10 a.m. Mass of the day.
There's a Saturday Mass at 4:30 p.m., which is followed by the festival, he said.
"I can't thank our volunteers enough; we need every single person to make this go," Hetrick said, adding that there have been parishioners who have helped with the festival for the past 30 to 40 years.
CDA initiated this event in 1939 and continues to run the cake and and ice cream booth today.
The grand prize drawing will be held at 11 p.m. Sunday at the festival grounds.
For the complete schedule of activities at the festival, see the SS.C.D. insert.