Family-friendly, faith-based ‘FEST’ returns to Lake County

Aug. 7—It’s good to be home.

This year, The FEST — a daylong event that brings people together from all regions to enjoy an inspiring day of faith, family and fun, with a series of live music performances — returned to the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe.

And talk about not missing a beat, as the free event drew more than 40,000 people from across Northeast Ohio and surrounding states Aug. 7, a typical turnout, noted Father Bob Stec of the Diocese of Cleveland and pastor of Saint Ambrose Parish in Brunswick.

FEST attendees battle for supremacy during a game of 9 square in the air at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe on Aug. 7. (Chad Felton ??

Even amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the FEST, now in its 22nd year, was held virtually in 2020, attracting “stunning viewership.”

Last year, with relaxed safety protocols, the Catholic celebration was moved to Brookside Reservation, a Cleveland Metroparks property, as a multimillion-dollar Center for Pastoral Leadership renovation project precluded the event from staying home.

“It was the same great day, just on a smaller scale. Because of COVID, attendance was limited to 15,000 people,” Stec said. “The theme for FEST 2022 is ‘Homecoming,’ first, because we are coming back to Wickliffe, and, second, think about your own experiences of homecomings and reunions — it all brings people back together and renews both friendships and commitment.

Jasmine Dragons Acrobatics dazzled during The FEST on Aug. 7 in Wickliffe. The popular family-friendly, faith-based event returned to Lake County in 2022. (Chad Felton ??

“We hope that this year, as we bring everyone back together, we can renew friendships with one another and strengthen our commitment to building a strong community based on love of God and love of neighbor.”

With the aid of over 1,000 volunteers, the FEST showcased its usual fare, including food trucks, games, activities, crafts, sponsor tents and nationally known artists/bands, including Crowder, Phil Wickham, We the Kingdom, Micah Tyler and Rhett Walker.

A county partnership allows the affair to go off without a hitch, no matter the current health environment.

“We started our relationship with the organizers of the FEST in 2020 and were excited about our new partnership until the forced major changes to all in-person events,” said Neil Stein, executive director of Remarkable Lake County, OH.

“And we still worked on their virtual event, which was one of the best virtual events done anywhere in 2020, but the power of the FEST is in the in-person fellowship it provides to attendees, so we’re excited for it to return , bigger and better than ever.”

The FEST’s Activity Zone saw plenty of recreational action abound on Aug. 7 in Wickliffe, including cornhole and kan jam and ladder golf. (Chad Felton ??

While the FEST’s organization starts quickly after the conclusion of the event for next year’s showing, Stec said officials continue to receive emails from people sharing their stories and experiences.

“They mention that the FEST is ‘their best day’ of the summer,” he added, “and that it brings together amazing people who gather for inspiring music and meaningful displays and activities, with wonderful opportunities for prayer and reflection, while strengthening the bonds of faith — it really is wonderful for everyone. The day is bright, hopeful and reinforces strong, family values.”

FEST team member Jake Bihari, who serves with Stec as part of a mission field team in the Dominican Republic, agreed.

“With so much negativity in the news, days like this remind me, and I think us, that the world is full of good people and that brings hope,” he said.

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