Almost 75 years ago, Father Cornelius Normoyle started Transfiguration Church at a little café on the shores of Tanner Lake.
Back then, a church’s “fall festival” celebrated the fruits of the harvest and the crafts that local folks made in between farming and menial jobs.
Move ahead to the 21st century, and Father Normoyle’s jaw would drop if he saw the focus of Transfiguration’s 2013 Fall Festival.
Fall festivals throughout the Twin Cities have had to change to keep up with the times. Priorities, urbanization of farmland and technology itself dictate that a new fall festival business model must be applied—or the festivals will go the way of the dinosaur.
In the 1980s and ’90s, many church fall festivals experienced plummeting attendance from both parishioners and the local community. After all, it’s hard to compete with county and state fairs, renaissance festivals and local music venues that folks swarm to before the last of the summer sunrays set.
Transfiguration Catholic Church was no exception.
Transfiguration’s Fall Festival had been a critical revenue source for supporting the church’s school as well as major capital projects. With revenue declining, the church’s ability to fix leaky roofs and worn out parking lots was in jeopardy.
But changing demographics and declining revenue forced the committee to do the figurative soul-searching.
In early 2013, Transfiguration’s festival planning committee decided that the start of the church’s 75th anniversary year would be the right time to make some dramatic changes.
To some parishioners’ chagrin, traditional festival activities were nixed, including the children’s game tent and the outdoor bingo hall. Interesting food from all over the world would replace locally grown eats, and craft tents are being swapped for high-tech sound boards.
“It is always hard for a well established parish like Transfiguration to take a long-standing Fall Festival tradition—and turn it on its ear. But new traditions start all the time, and new generations will look back with great sentiment on these changes… If we get it right,” said parishioner Angie Hopkins, a member of Transfiguration since 1998.
While many mainstays such as the carnival rides and raffle tickets survive, the planning committee decided the way to get it “right” was to compete more directly with success stories elsewhere. Leveraging others’ successes required visits to the Basilica block party, St. Paul’s noon-day Food Trucks, and other local neighborhood festivals. Of course, the growing interest in farmers markets and garage sales was not lost on the committee either; the new Fall Festival will include a “Festival Market,” which will be a blend of garage sales, flea markets, craft stands and vendor wares.
Last but not least, Transfiguration is going big on the music scene by bringing in well-known Minnesota artists for a daylong music fest on Saturday, Sept. 7.
Both Mark Andrew and Tim Mahoney were participants on NBC’s The Voice, Steve Noonan is a local music artist who frequents local music fests including Grand Ol’ Day, and Martin Zellar, former lead singer of the popular Gear Daddies, is flying in from Mexico to be the Saturday night headliner.
It is hoped that the new mix of events will jump-start a permanent new event for eastside communities, and at the same time revitalize Transfiguration’s Fall Festival.
While it is not certain that Father Normoyle would approve, he would certainly endorse the sort of success that allowed Transfiguration to move out of a Tanner’s lake café and into one of the newest church facilities in town.
The Fall Festival will be held on the Transfiguration fields at Century Avenue and 15th Street the weekend of Sept. 6-8.Find more information on the church's website.