Episco-Fact #107
September 20, 2018

Francisco-fact: When did the Fall Fest begin and why was it started?

The Fall Fest began in October of 2017. It was the successor to the Country Fair, a tradition at St. Francis since 1970. Yes, 1970 was a long time ago, even for the Rector (the Baltimore Colts were still in Baltimore, the Vietnam War was still being prosecuted, Richard Nixon was the President of the United States of America, and the Boston Red Sox still had not won a world series since 1918—it would take another 34 years before that failing was overcome).

Back then St. Francis was still St. Francis in the Field and a mission of the Diocese through St. John's Church, McLean, as opposed to a full-fledged church within the Langley Parish. The members who were part of this fledgling church were looking for ways to raise money beyond pledging. It was a small group of families who were part of the community. They happened upon the idea of the "Country Fair," which was conceived of not only as a fund-raising venture, but also a way to raise the church's profile in the community and a way to meet the neighbors. It worked, and it stuck.

Although the contours of the fair were consistent it was an event whose component parts changed over time. In 1979, thirty-nine years ago, the Fair added the Treasure Trove, a good-sized Flea Market where Franciscans and their neighbors could swap out what they no longer needed and buy items they did need. It generated a nice cash flow and stayed on until 2017. And, it was during the nineties that the Gala became a thing and a way to add to the fundraising part of the fair.

Over the years, features were added, subtracted, and adjusted. During all the years Franciscans as clown, barkers, tickets sellers, cooks, tractor drivers, and more gathered together, enjoyed their own company, and the company of neighbors to raise money for the church, have fun, and fill a niche of country living in the DC metro-plex

The most recent adjustment began last year. The Country Fair became the Fall Fest. As the demographics of Great Falls became more exurban and less countrified, as families took on more weekend activities and had less time for an all-day fair, either as church-participants or as fair-goers, the Vestry decided to simplify and adjust.

This year's second iteration of the Fall Fest, next Saturday, September 29, from 3:00 PM until 7:00 PM, will return with wine tasting, games and activities for children, live blue-grass music, a silent auction, Mookies' food-truck with BBQ or hot dogs, and live Blue-Grass music. It remains quintessentially Franciscan, low-key, countrified, and neighborly. Come for the fun, the food, the fellowship, and the chance to raise money for a worthy cause—the ministry that is St. Francis.

Oh, and make certain to say thank you to the many volunteers, especially Eric Chewning, the Chair, Rob Kerns, Vestry liaison, and all the Franciscan regulars who are there.