By CHRIS MORRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
The Strawberry Festival kicked things off last month, and now the New Albany Deanery festival season is well underway.
This weekend, St. Anthony of Padua in Clarksville and St. Mary of the Knobs will hold festivals, and next week it’s St. Mary’s in New Albany’s turn.
St. Anthony gets things started at 5 p.m. today, June 13, and festivities will continue all day Saturday, ending at midnight with the Rumors playing a concert.
St. Mary of the Knobs’ Knobfest begins at noon Saturday. There will be a chicken dinner, games of chance and three bands to entertain the crowd.
This is not only the fourth annual St. Mary of the Knobs Knobsfest, but it will also mark the first time in the festival’s history that three bands will be featured.
The Hart Strings will play from 4 to 6 p.m., and then two Louisville heavyweights will takes the stage — the Louisville Crashers will play from 6 to 9 p.m. and Eight Inch Elvis will close out the fun from 9 to midnight. Booths open at noon and close at 6 p.m. and admission will be $10 for the music and dance.
“The Hart Strings are from Floyd County so we are happy about that. Then we have two big bands from Louisville, so we are excited about the crowd they will bring,” said Karen Riddle, chairperson of the festival.
The chicken and ham dinners in Geis Activity Center will be served from noon to 6 p.m. There will also be Pub Pavilion, which will have beer and wine, gambling, booths and a kids zone.
The Miss Knobsfest pageant will be from 2 to 3 p.m. while the Lill Miss Knobsfest is from noon to 2 p.m.
“The most important thing is the festival brings people together for fellowship. No matter what you do, you meet people from the parish who you may not know,” Riddle said. “It also brings people in from the community, and it’s a fundraiser for our church.”
Riddle said there are around 600 parishioners who participate in the festival in some way. She expects 2,500 to 3,000 people will attend the event, which is held at 5719 St. Mary’s Road.
“It’s just a wonderful event up here,” she said. “It has just grown in leaps and bounds. It’s been a wonderful experience for everyone. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun.”
At St. Anthony, there will be a dance both tonight and Saturday featuring local bands Juice Box Heroes, from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. today, and the Rumors from 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday.
There are numerous raffle booths and games of chance along with a large outdoor food court. There are also chances to win as much as $5,000 along with other prizes including a gas grill and iPad.
But it’s the chicken dinner that chairwoman Amy MacAlusa said is worth the drive to 316 N. Sherwood Ave..
“It is the best chicken dinner around. I guarantee you won’t walk away hungry,” MacAlusa said.
The festival — which has been around for more than 50 years — kicks off at 5 today and will run all day Saturday. New this year is an ethnic food area. There is also gambling in an air-conditioned facility, along with a beer tent.
Due to a miscommunication and the fact there are five Sundays in June, St. Anthony and St. Mary of the Knobs festivals are on the same weekend. But since the two parishes are in different counties, organizers are confident there will not be a drop-off in attendance at either event.
“At first we were concerned about that, but we have a lot of people who come to our annual picnic no matter what,” MacAlusa said. “We used to host it in July, but it was so hot so we moved it to June.
“People are very faithful to this festival. It’s our biggest fundraiser. It’s a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun.”
The festival also features several kids games in a safe area where MacAlusa said parents won’t have to worry about their youngsters.