APPLETON — St. Rita of Cascia is the patron saint of impossible tasks, which is why her intercession is so appreciated by Susan Hurteau. As the chairperson of the raffle and silent auction for the St. Joseph Fall Fest, Hurteau faces the task of starting from scratch. But by the time the parish celebration happens, they have a bounty of items to sell, raffle and auction.
“Every year I start out with nothing and every year I am amazed at how generous the other parishioners are and how generous the businesses in the community we live in are,” said Hurteau. “We receive great compliments (on the items offered). I’m touched by everyone’s efforts and the excitement it garners.”
The Fall Festival is held annually at the end of September or beginning of October. “Usually the Green Bay Packers schedule mandates the picking of our date,” noted Hurteau. The event is held at the church but she remembers when the festival was held inside the school building.
This year the festival kicks off Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30, with a polka Mass in the church parking lot at 4 p.m. After Mass, the band entertains the guests as they enjoy a pork dinner outside. The festival also includes a bake sale, plant and produce sale, crafts and kids’ games. Sunday’s fare includes a brat fry and a silent auction and raffle.
Raffle items include large baskets with various themes to appeal to people of all ages.
Hurteau and her husband Matt lived in Denver and moved back to the Fox Valley in 2005. She soon got involved at her parish, including the Fall Fest. “They needed someone to chair the book sale,” recalled Hurteau. In 2012, she took on her current chair position for the raffle and auction.
Hurteau is a full-time, stay-at-home mom to her children: Grace, 13, Sam, 11, John, 8, and Sally, 5. She also home schools her children for religious education and puts in countless hours each year working on the fall festival.
“We start planning early,” explained Hurteau. “There’s a flurry of activity from late July and stuff will continue to roll in until the date of the fall fest.” She contacts local businesses for donations and supplements items with parishioner donations.
The parish also has several members who are professional artists who donate paintings.
Hurteau said a Christmas tree is turned into a “pumpkin tree” in August, decorated with orange tags. Each tag lists an item needed for the festival. Parishioners can choose an item to purchase and donate to the committee. Donations roll in for about two or three weeks, and then a secondary request goes out for food.
Hurteau said it is gratifying heading the Fall Fest committee.
“I really enjoy seeing people’s reactions,” she said. “I like to see the enthusiasm that an event like this (creates). This is really the one yearly event that we have as a parish together to celebrate the community. It’s great to see everyone’s efforts and contributions and just experience time together outside a formal Mass setting and it’s great to see the number of people who come out to participate in it.”