Twenty-two years ago, the parishioners at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church decided to hold a small fundraiser to replenish the church funds.
They arranged for a few ethnic dishes, which were cooked at a neighboring church, brought them to their hall, held a small yard sale and invited the community.
Since then, the event has grown to include hundreds of ethnic foods from four different cultures; Italian, Polish, German and American. Now they make it on-site for the festival.
The event also added a silent auction, carnival rides and live entertainment throughout the four-day span. It is one of the most highly anticipated and most talked about local festivals in the area.
Commemorating an impressive 22-year span, the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church Ethnic Festival has never been bigger, boasting some of the best carnival rides, local entertainment acts, authentic ethnic dishes and a full four-day weekend of fun for the entire family. Best of all, admission to the ethnic festival is free.
Debbie Colvin, the event co-chair, said her 22 years of assisting with the festival preparations have been an amazing experience. She has heard nothing but positive feedback from the community. Many anticipate the festival because it gives them an affordable family option with something for everyone.
Colvin has been involved with the event since its beginning and has co-chaired for two years.
"When we first got started, we didn't have any carnival rides or anything," she remembered.
The festival begins Thursday at 5 p.m. with an opening prayer by The Rev. Ray O'Neill followed Doug & Jimmy Stone's rendition of "God Bless America."
The rest of Thursday's entertainment schedule includes:
5:15 - 6:15 p.m. Gypsy Star
6:45 - 7:15 p.m. Chocachatti Hip Hop Shop Dancers
7:15 - 7:45 p.m. Homeland Gospel
8 - 8:30 p.m. Explorer K-8 Music Team
8:30 - 9:15 p.m. The Cruzers
Friday, Oct. 25:
5:30 - 5:45 p.m. Tapping Wowettes
6 - 6:30 p.m. Tina's Dance Academy
6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Dragon's Dojo
7:30 - 8 p.m. Diana's Dance Express
8:15 - 8:45 p.m. Klassic Kountry Kloggers
8:45 - 9:15 p.m. Shazadi & Jewels of the Nile Belly Dance Troupe
9:15 - 10 p.m. Karaoke w/ Jason Ensor
Saturday, Oct. 26:
12:30 - 1 p.m. Bishop McLaughlin High School Show Choir
1 - 1:30 p.m. Stir Up the Gifts
1:30 - 2:15 p.m. Brooksville Academy of the Arts
2:15 - 2:30 p.m. Dance Craft
2:30 - 3 p.m. Diana's Dance Express
3:15 - 4:15 p.m. Dragon's Dojo
4:30 - 5 p.m. Stage West Cast For "Les Miserables"
5 - 5:30 p.m. Diana's Dance Express
5:45 - 6 p.m. Zumba Kids
6 - 6:15 p.m. Shazadi
6:15 - 7 p.m. Just Dance
7 - 10 p.m. Just Us Duo
Sunday, Oct. 27:
1:30 - 2 p.m. Lia Panzner Pj Digaetano & Ella D'Angelo
2 - 2:30 p.m. Diana's Dance Express
2:45 - 3:15 p.m. Moon's Tae Kwon Do College Demo Team
3:15 - 3:45 p.m. Jayne's Dance Academy
3:45 - 4 p.m. Zumba Kids
4 - 4:30 p.m. Diana's Dance Express
4:45 - 5:15 p.m. Stage West Cast for "Les Miserables"
5:15 - 5:45 p.m. Lia Panzner Paetano & Ella D'Angelo
6 - 6:30 p.m. Three Guys & A Gal
The event takes months of preparation and depends completely on parish volunteers to pull together.
All the food is prepared onsite, in the parish hall, and served fresh. They even make their own funnel cake dough, a festival favorite.
The indoor flea market, called Second Hand Rose, is open Thursday through Saturday and includes donations by the parishioners.
"And we sell it very cheap," Colvin said. On Saturday, everything left is discounted 50 percent. Anything left is then donated to St. Vincent de Paul. Donations are accepted for Second Hand Rose until Thursday morning.
Armbands can be purchased in advance at the church for $20 each day or $50 for the entire event.
The money raised throughout the four day event is used to help run the parish through the year. A portion is also donated to local charities.
Each year, the event begins with an empty tent, Colvin said, and within a day, the entire front of the church grounds is bustling with festival excitement.
"One day I'm going to take pictures," Colvin said.