Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and School continued the annual Columbia Heights tradition with another weekend of summer family fun.
The Nordeast Summer Jam Fun Fest was held on Aug. 3-6 on the grounds of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and School. Thousands of community members enjoyed the nights of live music, festive food, car show, kids games and more.
The ICCC tradition has been around since the early 1960s, but it wasn’t always fun and games. It began as a community chicken dinner, called the Fall Festival, and took place in early fall.
“We’d all gather together and peel cucumbers, cut up all the tomatoes, roast the chickens and get everything ready for dinner,” Ester Guzik shared.
Guzik is a member of the Council of Catholic Women (CCW) of Immaculate Conception, an organization that volunteers to help the church in many ways. Guzik and fellow members Fran Jensen and Marion Bernard now assist in with the festival by hosting a bake sale booth.
“It began as the ‘Bread Booth,’” Jensen remembered. “CCW members would donate bread. It began around 1957 and we’ve been doing it every since.”
The ladies baked over 700 cookies, as well as poppyseed bread, rice krispy treats and other items. They said they sold out this year faster than ever before.
What began as a fall festival moved into the summer months to ICCC Fun Fest. The festival is now community-oriented with an emphasis on live music entertainment, which has led to the name Nordeast Summer Jam Fun Fest.
“Nine years ago, we started bringing in more and bigger entertainment and tried to do a little more outreach to the community,” Festival Committee Co-Chair Art Harris said. “We wanted to make it more into something that wasn’t just a parish festival, but more of a community event.”
The Summer Jam Fun Fest now features a musical performance on each night that draws the crowd in.
For the second time, the Summer Jam Fun Fest began on Thursday night with Twin Cities band, “Jonah and the Whales.” The evening was meant to give back to the volunteers who have worked hard for the past summer months to pull the festival together.
Friday and Saturday evenings drew in the most community members, with popular bands the Rockin’ Hollywoods and Beatles tribute band “Rubber Soul.”
“Each day has a little bit of its own personality,” ICCS principal Jane Bona said. “I think its also dictated somewhat by the music.”
The two bands have become Summer Jam traditions and offer a fun night out for community members of Heights and the surrounding area.
Other weekend events included the MSMA car show, which featured over 70 cars this year, as well as children’s games and inflatables and silent auction.
Saturday and Sunday featured an outdoor vendor market, and the final day, Sunday, was Hispanic Fiesta Day. A group in the parish, Lady of Guadalupe, featured musical entertainment and authentic Hispanic food for the community to enjoy.
The completely volunteer-driven event raises funds for both the parish and the school each year.
“We do this each year to help the budget, but its not just about the money,” Pastor John Mitchell said. “Its all about the fun and volunteering. I’m really grateful to all of the community that comes to this.”
“These nights always have such a festive feel,” Bona shared. “People know that we are still in summer, and yet we know that the end of the summer is in sight within the month, but its an exciting feeling to get together as a parish and a community.”
“We’re always grateful to the people of Columbia Heights and the surrounding communities who come out and support our great event each year,” said Bona. “I’m so glad we can get people to come out here and enjoy the great offerings that we have.”
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