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Volunteers work all week to get festival grounds ready
St. Anthony of Padua Church Pastor, Father Patrick Walker, left, and Father Camilo Garcia, assistant vicar, are pictured inside the Dog Pound. Sister Ann Venita demonstrates how this attraction will try to raise money by bailing the priests out of the Dog Pound. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The mesh tents are up, and so are most of the food and game booths.

A small crew of volunteers was hard at work all day Wednesday to make sure everything will be ready when the annual St. Anthony’s Harvest Festival wbegins Saturday, Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. The two-day food and games and auction extravaganza for the entire family will continue on Sunday when the grand prize winner of this year’s drawing will be held in the evening.

The lucky winner could end up enjoying an eight-day, seven-night vacation in Palm Springs at a cost of just a few dollars. Ticket donations for the drawing are just $1 apiece, or six for $5, and 12 for $10. Tickets will be on sale both days of the festival held on the church grounds next to St. Anthony School.

The other big-ticket items that will go to the lucky winners in the drawing include a bicycle, all kinds of gift cards, certificates for local restaurants, and a $500 gift card from Steve’s Chevrolet-Buick in Oakdale for Saturday’s drawing; and another bike, more gift cards, an iPad2, and a $500 gift certificate from Hafer’s Home Furniture in Manteca for the Sunday drawing.

The drawing for the grand prize will take place at 8 p.m. on Sunday when the festival will conclude. Winners need not be present to win.

Admission to the festival is free. This event is not just for parishioners.

“Everybody’s welcome. We always have a large turnout of local people,” said Father Patrick Walker, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Indeed, some winners of the previous grand prizes have been Manteca residents who don’t belong to St. Anthony’s.

The festival, every year, also sees “many people who have moved away and come back” just to come and enjoy the festival weekend, said Fr. Walker.

The usual scrumptious food fare will be there, including such ethnic offerings as Filipino egg rolls (lumpia), Portuguese linguica, and Mexican tacos and tamales. Many traditional old-fashioned game booths that will be there include ping-pong toss, grab-a-duch, horse race, milk can toss, and nickel pitch. The popular bookwork booth will return for the third year in a row. For the adults, the beer garden will also make a comeback.

The silent auction will be held inside the gym both days. The live auction will be held on Sunday, immediately after the 10:30 a.m. outdoor concelebrate and bilingual Mass on the festival grounds, which includes livestock, hay, wine, quality handmade items, plus homemade Portuguese sweet bread. While the live auction, at one time, actually brought live animals to the festival grounds, that is no longer the case. Pictures and/or videos of the donated animals up for auction are now the norm rather than the exception in the interest of safety and liability.

New this year as part of this once-a-year big fund-raiser for the church is the sponsor program. It offers different levels of giving, with the names of the donors to be highlighted on leaf cutouts that will be placed on a giving tree. These levels of giving will be platinum (for donations of $1,000), gold ($500), silver ($250), $100 (bronze), and Friends of the Festival for $25-$99 donations.

All proceeds from the festival will be used for parish programs as well as for maintenance. Money raised is “mainly for the parish but the (St. Anthony) school benefits, too,” Fr. Walker said.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Ever Young in Christ” which is also the theme of the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Stockton being celebrated this year.

Festival hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16. Sunday will begin with the outdoor Mass which will be held on the festival grounds at 10:30 a.m. followed by the start of the day’s events. There will be no 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Masses on Sunday, Sept. 16.

For more information, call the church office at (209) 823-7197.