The Festival at St. John XXIII that returns this weekend has become a longtime, annual tradition for thousands of families.
“There’s a lot of laughter, storytelling, and a lot of eating, and I love seeing everyone come together during the festival. One of the reasons we wanted to do the festival in the first place was to bring people together. I also love seeing the students. We’ve been out of school for a month now, so it’s good to see them out, enjoying their summer,” said Dawn Pickerill, principal at St. John XXIII Catholic School.
St. John XXIII Catholic School will host its three-day community festival Friday through Sunday.
This is the fourth year “The Festival at St. John XXIII’ festival has been at St. John XXIII Catholic School. The festival was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Prior to 2019, The Fenwick Festival was hosted by Bishop Fenwick High School for more than 60 years. From 2004 to 2018, the festival moved to Fenwick’s new location at 4855 Ohio 122. Typically, 15,000 to 20,000 people attend the festival over the course of the weekend.
The festival transitioned from Fenwick High School to St. John in 2019 and the event has moved back to its original location at 3806 Manchester Road in Middletown (which is also the old Fenwick High School location and the current site for St. John XXIII.)
Bill Becker, leader of the grounds for The Festival at St. John XXIII, said it takes hundreds of volunteers to put on the festival, from running booths and games to helping with food.
“The majority of volunteers are old-time St. John XXIII Catholic School and Fenwick High School graduates. It’s a family tradition to help with the festival, and it goes back 50 or 60 years. For many of the volunteers, their fathers and grandfathers worked up here, and now it’s them, and their children working. It’s truly all about family,” said Becker, who has volunteered for more than 30 years.
This is a big event for St. John and almost everyone is involved in some way, he said. Students help with set-up and pre-sell raffle tickets.
“Part of the whole process of the Catholic education in the school system is to give back and you see that here, from the youngest kids working to their grandparents,” Becker said.
Festival highlights will include kiddie games, rides, food, and beverages as well as adult gambling games like Jumbo Poker and Blackjack, pull-off tickets and more. There will be several new games this year, including a Lumberjack/Axe-throwing game. The grand raffle is also always popular. Admission is free. Games, rides, activities, food, and beverages are available for purchase.
There will be live music on Friday night from Farewell Fisher from 9 p.m. to midnight under the big tent. Members of the group are St. John XXIII Catholic School alumni, who are giving their time to perform at the festival.
“Everyone wants to get out, and the weather is going to be beautiful,” said Dorothy “Dot” Crisp, festival chairperson for The Festival at St. John XXIII. “It’s summer and people just want to be together, have a good time, and have a cold drink. We are excited to see everyone.”
With a goal of raising around $125,000, the festival serves as a fundraiser, which benefits students and their families. St. John XXIII School, a private, Catholic school, educates 500 students in grades K-8, and preschool, beginning at age 3.
How to go
What: The Festival at St. John XXIII
When: 6 p.m.-midnight Friday, 4 p.m.-midnight Saturday and 4-10 p.m. Sunday
Where: 3806 Manchester Road, Middletown
More info. stjohn23school.org or (513) 424-1196