Parish festivals can return for parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, beginning July 1. (File photo)

The squeal of children on carnival rides, the sound of a local band, and the smell of a chicken dinner will all soon be returning.

After parish festivals were suspended in 2020 due to the coronavirus, pastors have received the go-ahead to plan celebrations this summer, beginning July 1. All events must be consistent with safety protocols established by the CDC, as well as local department of health and county COVID safety guidelines.

There are three steps to hosting a festival this year:

  1. Develop a COVID-19 safety plan for the festival;
  2. Submit and get approval, if necessary, from the local health department and municipality; and
  3. Send a copy of the safety plan to Molly Hatfield at Catholic Mutual Group and to Brad Berghouse, Chief Operating Officer for the Archdiocese.

Often the highlight of parish festivals, the meals and other fare also need to follow established food service protocols for safety, distancing and sanitizing set by the health department. It is suggested that parishes utilize take-out orders or use outdoor food service venues.

According to Berghouse, the festival plan should give consideration to cleaning protocols, volunteer and worker safety, monitoring attendance, distancing and crowd control.

“The parish will need to assess which volunteers they may have who are willing to work because of the pandemic, and realize that attendance may be down this year,” he said. “It is exciting, however, to bring the festivals back. I am not sure how much parishes suffered last year, but festivals and auctions are two of the biggest items needed for parish and school finance.”

While the parish festival may be the lifeline for some of the smaller parishes, Berghouse said he applauds so many of the parishes for their creativity in raising money with drive-thru fish fries, spaghetti dinners and other events.

“They have been fantastic in being creative and thinking of ways to offset their annual festival,” he said.

Each safety plan is dependent on the local community and once they receive the OK from the local health department, the parish will send a copy of the plan and the approval to Hatfield and Berghouse for review.

“We might suggest something to consider if we see any potential issues and make suggestions, such as maybe another way to create an entrance or handle the flow of people,” he said. “While there are still some restrictions, it is wonderful we can celebrate and come back to the community. Typically, the parish festival is like a family reunion, and the whole community gets together each year and has a great time. It will be great to bring that back again. We are here to help and also to walk them through the plan if they feel overwhelmed.”

So far, there haven’t been any complaints about having to create the safety plan, said Berghouse. He said most are happy to have a direction to follow and there have been interesting conversations on ways to make the festivals happen under the safety plan.

Berghouse said he thinks most parishes will host their festivals, but one concern will be in signing contracts for bands and ride vendors. If there would be another shutdown, they would have to cancel the contracts, so each contract will need to add the COVID-19 clause:

Neither Party to this Agreement shall be liable for failure to perform its obligations under this Agreement, nor shall any cancellation penalties apply, if the event that is the subject of this Agreement is canceled and/or either Party is unable to perform its obligations due to reasons relating to COVID-19, including but not limited to, restrictions on the size or type of gatherings promulgated by local, state, and/or federal government agencies and/or the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

 For additional information, refer to the Catholic Mutual Group 2021 Festival and Large Event materials. This is subject to change and Berghouse said he will continue to monitor and update as necessary.