For the 22nd year, St. John Vianney Parish in Orchard Park is welcoming visitors for its annual lawn fete, held from Thursday, July 24 until Sunday, July 27. It will feature events to keep both children and adults entertained, with an emphasis on family-friendly fun. An organizer said this year's lawn fete will maintain long-standing traditions while adding enough to also keep the event fresh.
Chris Bandura, who manages publicity and advertising for the lawn fete and provides assistance to the chairpeople of its individual events, said, "As each year progresses, we try to kind of find our little niche, as it goes. We don't have one of the largest, and we definitely don't have one of the smallest."
"We've had rides in the past, you name it," Bandura added. "People kind of come, especially our parishioners. They come to expect a lot of the same things, and I think that's kind of the driving force. There's been little changes, but most of the same things stay the same. No matter whether you have rides or tents or whatever it is, it's the gathering of all the parishioners in the community on our parish grounds that kind of matters the most, and that has not changed." The festivities will run from 5-11:30 p.m. on Friday, July 25, and Saturday, July 26 and from noon until 10 p.m. on Sunday, July 27.
On Thursday, July 25, the lawn fete begins with the 14th annual 5K Kickoff Run, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The entry fee is $18 for those who pre-register, and $23 on the day of the run. Children and teens 14 years and under may register for $13 ahead of time or $15 on that day. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top four overall finishers, as well as the top three finishers over 40 years of age.
For the first time, St. John Vianney is collaborating with Unyts to give runners the option of registering to donate at a blood drive in the school gymnasium on Sunday. Those who participate in the blood drive will automatically enter into a drawing for a refund of their run entry fee.
"This is our first year with Unyts. We're very excited about having them partner up," Bandura said. "I think we have close to over 600 people either running or walking. There's a lot of runs and walks that go out, but that's a pretty good number for a small little run. We're pretty proud of where that's kind of progressed and, once again, it's one of those things that brings a lot of our parishioners who maybe aren't running but they're walking. It's a sanctioned event, and I think people have a lot of fun with that."
Throughout the weekend, the lawn fete will also feature a tent of children's activities including bounce houses, an obstacle course, a train that runs without a track, games, prizes, a clown, snacks and more. Games of chance, a children's silent auction and a Chinese auction will also be included. The lawn fete has moved away from electronic rides since its previous years. For adults, the "beer keg challenge" will enable attendees to donate a quarter of a keg of beer for $25, or half a keg for $50. All donors will have their names placed on a "keg supporter" sign in the beer tent.
Each night, a fireworks show will take place at 10 p.m., weather permitting, and each night will feature different live bands and performers. Rock cover band Passion Works, who plays rock music from the '60s through the present day, kicks off the set at 6 p.m. on Friday, and a cruise night and teen night with Kiss 98.5's DJ RanKan from 6-10 p.m.
Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductees Hit N Run, who have opened for national rock acts such as Bret Michaels from Poison, Survivor and Boston, play at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Finally, on Sunday, local hard rock band No Mercy will play from 1-4 p.m., and The Boys of Summer, who play genres including rock, pop, dance, country and oldies, conclude the concert series at 6 p.m.
Meals will include Polish platters or pork chop dinners, courtesy of Nowak's Catering, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and chicken and rib meals courtesy of BW's Barbecue from noon-7 p.m. Preordering is recommended due to limited supplies, and desserts will also be offered. Other events include an all-new alumni night on Friday at 7 p.m., as well as variety tents and theme basket raffles throughout. The grand prize winner, who will receive a prize of $10,000 in cash, will also be announced on Sunday.
Bandura said the lawn fete takes "a lot of energy, a lot of commitment and a lot of love for our parish." It is a completely volunteer-driven event each year, and the event chairs are largely parishioners and many of them are also family members of the schoolchildren. Marina Cappuzzello is the chairperson for the entire lawn fete, in addition to the event chairs, for a total of 500 volunteers. He said, "You try to build on the successes you have each year, and you try to make those things even better next year."
"We want to create our niche a little bit as more of a family (lawn fete), where ours doesn't run as long as some of the other ones in terms of hours, but it takes a lot of commitment from our parishioners to really make this thing tick, and we try to get creative and add things each year a little bit," Bandura said. "It takes a lot of work to plan, but if you have so many different chairpeople, it really kind of spreads it out a little bit and we really get to experience the different skillsets of the parishioners."
For more information, to buy tickets, sign up for the 5K run or offer to volunteer for the lawn fete, call the St. John Vianney Parish rectory at 674-9133 or visit the parish's website at www.saintjohnvianney.com. The website for the 5K run can be found at www.kickoffrun.com.