PUNXSUTAWNEY — Preparations continue for one of the most popular events of the summer in Punxsutawney, The Ss. Cosmas & Damian (SS.C.D.) Roman Catholic Church 72nd annual Lawn Festival begins at 6 p.m. Friday.
Frank Hetrick, chairman of the festival committee, said the festival has a broad appeal, and those who attend are not just from the Punxsy area.
Hetrick said the festival is known throughout the area. He helps spread the word, delivering a booklet detailing the festival to 15 different Roman and Byzantine Catholic churches from Coalport to Clarion every summer.
The lawn festival celebration first began in 1939, simply as a parish gathering on the church lawn, and it continues today as both a parish and community celebration, he said.
Hetrick said the festival is a part of the year-long fund-raiser which supports the SS.CD. Catholic school.
All proceeds supplement educational costs in order to keep tuition affordable to families who believe in a strong academic and religious education, Hetrick said, adding that the festival is also a social event for the community.
"We rely heavily on the support of the residents of Punxsutawney to come and help us," he said. "SS.C.D. is a big part of Punxsy history, as the church has been here for 125 years. The town was only 50 years old when the church was first constructed.
"We have a tremendous amount of people who support the Lawn Festival from in town, and the committee is grateful for that," Hetrick said.
The SS.C.D. school was founded in 1892 which coincided with the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy.
Hetrick said the school has been K-8 since 1967, when the high school closed.
"SS.C.D. School has continued to maintain its enrollment over the years," Hetrick said. "Every year I see in the news where another Catholic school is closing; thankfully, we've been able to keep ours open."
Hetrick said approximately 900 families call SS.C.D. their home church, and an additional 400 families who attended St. Anthony's in Walston, St. Adrian's in Delancey and St. Joseph's in Anita, now attend church at SS.C.D.
Msgr. Joseph J. Riccardo, the pastor at SS.C.D., has the responsibility of overseeing 1,300 parishioners, which is a large responsibility for one priest, Hetrick said.
This year's food at the festival will include Frank's Star Lunch hot dog stand, a food shack, a popcorn stand, a cake and ice cream stand, Pam's Famous Fried Dough and a funnel cake stand.
Following Mass, Sunday dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will feature breaded chicken, baked ham, meatballs, stuffed cabbage, pasta in sauce and au gratin potatoes.
Hetrick said the festival received a $200 donation, which will be given away as part of two attendance drawings Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. Since signing up is free, one must be present to win.
The grand prize drawings will be held at 11 p.m. Sunday. The first prize is a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze RS LTZ purchased from Kuntz Chevrolet/Buick in Punxsy, or the winner may choose $15,000 instead.
The complete SS.C.D. Lawn Festival schedule is located on Page 12 of today's Spirit.
Festival committee members include Carol Marasco, Kim Curtis, Lisa Phillips, Mike Klingensmith, Sharon Klingensmith, Jeff Curtis, Lynn Hess and Hetrick.