Rev. Raymond Thomas, VF
Rosemary Bernato, Co-Chair
Don Meola, Co-Chair
Betty & Gary Capitena
Molly & Jim Carney
Mia & Calvin Crawford
Sandy & John Kozel
Cyndi & Henry Notter
Janis & Ed Williams
*Former Festival Chair
The Our Lady of Peace Festival is held each year during the second full weekend of July in the parking area between the Rev. Bernard Vacca Community Center and the former Mt. Carmel School, 2150 Columbus Avenue, Ashtabula, Ohio.
For 124 years the festival has been held in Ashtabula City to commemorate the spirit, faith, and traditions of Italian Catholic immigrants who have made the community their home.
This annual event marks the highlight of summer for area families along with parishioners, providing a weekend of entertainment and events that is affordable to everyone.
The festival has grown over the years to include live music, family friendly rides and games, traditional Italian and Mexican food, homemade desserts, novelties, and games of chance. Highlights include the Cavatelli Dinner, with Sunday evening fireworks to officially close out the weekend of celebration.
The nine-day prayer novena is the heart of the festival, with the Sunday mass as the culmination of the faith-driven celebration. Parishioners and community members gather for a procession along Columbus Avenue to the church’s original worship site. Members of select parish families take turns carrying a statue of the Madonna while escorted by the Knights of Columbus and a band.
The festival is a proud celebration of homecoming, with time honored traditions that have been handed down through generations of families. Led by parishioners Rosemary Bernato and Don Meola, a dedicated committee of volunteers will organize and host the 2021 Festival.
The festival will be a party with a purpose, which will be to raise $100,000 to asphalt pave parish parking lots.
Planning for the 2021 festival will proceed with continual monitoring of COVID virus status and a decision will be made by May 1 on whether or not to proceed with the in-person event.
The Catholic faith community in Ashtabula has had a strong tradition of hosting annual summer festivals beginning in 1860 with the founding of St. Joseph’s parish by Irish and German immigrants.
With the construction of railroads in the late 1800s the immigrant population of Ashtabula grew. As a result, Irish Catholics established Mother of Sorrows 1878. Then, twenty years later, the Italian community purchased the site of the original Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1897 and a church was built there in 1902. In 1955, The Mission was established to serve families of Italian descent who were members of St. Joseph’s Parish.
Each of the Ashtabula Catholic parishes held individual summer festivals for most of a 20th century until parish population numbers resulted in the 2011 consolidation of parishes. The Mt. Carmel festival continued to be held annually.
Referred by parishioners as the bazaar or feast, the long standing tradition of the Mt. Carmel Festival has kept its purpose the same, through years of wars, depressions, an ever changing local population, and the pandemic of today. Despite dwindling volunteer numbers over the years, the festival has remained successful, both profitable and as a celebratory tradition. In the past twenty years, the festival has scaled back in size, with fewer church-run booths and attractions. A renewed emphasis on safety, incorporating admission fees and security personnel has restored the family atmosphere after several years of unsettling crowd behavior. The success of the 2019 festival has resulted in the willingness of Parish leadership to consider potential investment toward the future of the event.
The mission of the festival is to serve as a three-day fundraiser for Our Lady of Peace parish as well as a joyous celebration of faith and immigrant heritage in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
1. Continue the tradition of venerating Our Lady of Mt. Carmel;
2. Provide an attractive homecoming or reunion-like environment, which will encourage extended families of current parishioners and Ashtabula area residents to return home for the weekend;
3. Invigorate members of the parish and the greater Ashtabula area by offering a joyful and wholesome family event to attend;
4. Offer area children, teenagers and the general population with a safe opportunity to be social and interact interpersonally;
5. Encourage the parishioners to participate in the novena, Sunday Mass and procession;
6. Encourage parish unity and inclusiveness with outreach to all past and present parishioners to participate and volunteer; and
7. Raise $100,000 to repair and replace asphalt paved parish parking lots.
The primary target market for the festival will be Catholics and the families of Our Lady of Peace parish as well as all residents in Ashtabula County, Ohio.
The festival is a large undertaking and will require the involvement of 100 or more volunteers.
Status Quo Requirements
To continue the festival as it was configured in 2019 a minimal additional investment will be required. The only pressing need will be the recruitment of sufficient volunteers to once again offer the following:
|Beer Stand Finance Room Gambling Cavatelli Dinner|
To improve the festival experience the planning committee for the 2021 has generated the
following suggestions for implementation:
1. Increase the festival admission fee from 2019, which will automatically enter the admitted into a special 50/50 that night ;
2. Accept credit payments at the grounds cashier in exchange currency;
3. Increase the ticket cost and payout for the primary raffle;
4. Offer a FREE golf cart shuttle service to and from parked cars;
5. Organize a Saturday morning craft fair in the community center;
6. Host a bi-lingual mass Sunday morning;
7. Offer sponsorship opportunities for various levels of financial support;
8. Rent children and teen-oriented attractions, which come with insurance and permits: namely, a dunk tank, bounce house, bumper thumper cars, tic-tack-toe and an easy striker;
9. Offer pony rides for children in the green space between the community center and Gran Signora;
10. Cultivate the relationship with the Sons’ of Italy, Knights of Columbus and Hispanic church members in order to improve participation in the procession;
11. Improve the festival grounds sound and lighting system, which are significantly lacking;
12. Form a partnership with the Ashtabula Arts Center to host a community showcase talent show on the main stage between 6 and 10 p.m., Friday;
13. Maintain expanded security presence and post large print rules and expectations for festival goers to follow;
14. Engage a professional photographer to take candid snapshots of festival goers, which will be made available through the vendor’s website;
15. Secure an F2 alcohol sale permit from the State of Ohio Liquor Control in order to offer Limoncello and wine;
16. Improve food offerings with an enhanced pizza (add white & thin crust), festival-made Cannoli and ribbon-cut fried potatoes; and
17. Sell O.L.O.P. festival-branded t-shirts and facemasks.
• Well in advance of the July festival current and former parishioners will be interviewed in order to create a “festival memories” video to be posted on Youtube.
• Use available “classic” archival images harvested from festival movies taken in the 1920s and 1930s to create flyers and communications.
• Engage a professional to create three different festival logos for use with branding and communications.
• Establish a separate festival page on the O.L.O.P. website.
• Create and maintain a festival Facebook page.
• Have committee members present regular festival updates to the congregation from the pulpit at all three worship sites.
• Establish an online registration form, which will commit individuals to a time period and place to volunteer at the festival.
• Starting in January, begin e-mailing and mailing a monthly newsletter to all parishioners with festival updates. The communication will also serve as a venue to honor and thank past and current festival volunteers for their service.
• Rent a big sky search light for the week of the festival in order to generate enthusiasm.