Tucked along Will-Cook Road in Homer Glen, Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church houses a place of worship, as well as a prairie for people to enjoy.
Members and non-members alike were invited to come together to celebrate the end of summer at Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church’s 10th annual Prairie Fest. The three-day event returned Friday, Aug. 11 through Sunday, Aug. 13 to showcase more family-oriented attractions.
“It means a lot to us, because each year, we try to reach out to all,” the Rev. Thomas Loya said, referring to the festival’s 10th anniversary. “We have a lot of items every year, and it’s hard to imagine we already have our 10th one.”
Saturday was dubbed as the festival’s Family Day, in which the church offered animal shows, a martial arts demo, juggling and children’s games.
Loya said the event does a wonderful job of helping the church to demonstrate a sense of hospitality.
“It’s a really nice, safe wholesome place for [adults] to come and mingle and kids to play,” Loya said. “We have a kids’ section [and] great bands. It’s kind of like a summertime neighborhood block party.”
On the stage, attendees were greeted by live entertainment provided by the Nick Lynch Band, Polka Generations and Abba Salute.
Elsewhere, vendors prepared food for people to try. From hamburgers and hot dogs to Polish sausages and potato pancakes, they enjoyed a plethora of good eats.
Seated at a table beneath the shade provided by a tent was Alsip’s Mike Triggs. He said the church’s effort to hold the event is very important for evangelization.
“I think it’s great they do it,” Triggs said. “There’s a lot going on this community, and [this event] gives them a nice weekend with family. [There’s] a lot of [fun] stuff for the kids to do.”
Triggs said he tries to drop in for Prairie Fest every year. His sister, Barb Triggs-Smith, of Crown Point, Ind., said she and her husband, Fred Smith, decided to drop in after their vacation plans were cancelled.
Triggs-Smith said the festival made the length of her and her husband’s hour-long commute worthwhile.
“I’m worth the drive,” Triggs said, as he laughed.
Triggs-Smith said it was shaping up to be a nice day, and the festival was a nice way to meet up with other family members they had not seen in a while.
Another activity that attendees enjoyed was having the opportunity to win the raffles, as well as a grand cash raffle.
The festival strives not only to entertain but also serve a meaningful purpose to the church and its members.
“I take them through our prairie, which has a little environmental plan,” Loya said. “[It’s] a restored prairie, and I explain how it all happened, why it is.
“We talk about the prairie plans and the value of the prairie. So, I give them a tour, give its history and its value.”
Throughout the festival, people also enjoyed the building tours. Proceeds raised throughout are to help the church in pay its mortgage.
Prairie Fest brings in an average of 2,000 to 3,000 attendees.
Typically, the church begins making plans to hold this particular event immediately after the previous year’s festival.
“I just want to say thanks to the community and the sponsors and businesses that support us each year,” Loya said. “Doing this is a lot of work, a lot of planning. The whole parish [gets involved].”