St. Cecilia's three-day festival packs 'em in (2024)

By: Kevin Eigelbach | WCPO contributor

INDEPENDENCE, Ky. -- St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church in Independence isn't one of the larger parishes in the Diocese of Covington. At about 900 families, it's only one-third the size of parishes like Immaculate Heart of Mary in Burlington or St. Timothy in Union, said St. Cecilia parishioner Ed Reynolds.

But every Labor Day weekend for the past 99 years, St. Cecilia has put on a church picnic. That picnic has grown into a three-day festival, which Reynolds believes has become the largest annual private event in the Tri-State.

"We are, like, the biggest festival nobody knows about," he said.

Well, not exactly nobody. Local firefighters estimated that at the festival earlier this month, 18,000 people crowded onto St. Cecilia's campus on Madison Pike on Saturday evening, and another 18,000 came on Sunday evening, said Cherri Pretty, the festival chairperson.

"That would have been a record crowd, both nights," she added.

Attendees come from as far as Dayton, Ohio, Reynolds said, and they return every year.

St. Cecilia's three-day festival packs 'em in (1)

From the point of view of the city of Independence, it's a great opportunity to show this small Kenton County burg to the rest of the region, said Mayor Chris Reinersman, who runs the rubber duck races booth and serves as the festival announcer.

The latter job usually involves "talking too much and annoying people," he said.

The city's never measured the economic impact of the festival, he said, but he's sure it's a positive one. "The restaurant owners do see a definite uptick in business," he said.

What's the attraction? Music.

This year, the festival featured Little River Band, an Australian group that charted hits like "Reminiscing" in the late '70s, plus Night Ranger, known primarily for the '80s hit "Sister Christian." Both bands had performed at the festival about 10 years ago, Reynolds said.

Performers at past festivals have included '70s hitmaker Eddie Money, of "Two Tickets to Paradise" fame, and several cover bands.

The acts perform rain or shine, usually on a stage erected in the church parking lot. A Bruce Springsteen cover band played in the rain to an audience of about 10 people one year, Reynolds said. On another rainy day, about 200 crowded into the church undercroft to hear a band featuring the former lead singer of Boston.

"Boston basically played in our church basem*nt," Reynolds said.

Do these acts charge less because they're playing for a nonprofit? Not at all, Reynolds said. Sometimes they want to charge more, he said, because playing a church festival can seem like a step down for them. But once they see thousands of excited fans and a great stage for them to perform on, he said, they usually feel better about it.

In 2018, when the festival celebrates its 100th anniversary, the organizers hope to bring in three national recording artists instead of two, and they're thinking of expanding the festival to four days.

One reason the festival can afford to bring in such acts is that it has had great sponsors help with the cost, Pretty said.

There's no admission charge for the concerts. The festival typically uses them to draw people in so it can make money from raffling off a Corvette or $40,000 in cash, Pretty said. Other moneymakers include beer sales: More than 20,000 beers were sold at the most recent festival, Reynolds said.

Festival profits support the church's school, Reynolds said. The profit from the festival doesn't quite wipe out the deficit that running the school creates, he said, but it does help keep tuition costs down.

On Labor Day, the church sells huge chicken dinners at $8 apiece. Marylou Kaub, 83, who was baptized in the church and has been a parishioner ever since, supervises the dinner.

The toughest part, she said, is ordering the right amount of food to feed 1,500 to 2,000 people. She doesn't want to buy too much, she said, "because it's a waste, and it eats into the profit."

This past Labor Day, 2,400 meals were sold until supplies ran out about 6 p.m., Reynolds said.

The chicken dinners are a holdover from when the festival began 99 years ago as a one-day church picnic on Labor Day.

Eleven years ago, Father Mario Tizziani became the church pastor, and challenged the church to make the festival something more. He thought getting musical acts would be the way to do that, Reynolds said, especially since St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music.

Reynolds, who was the festival chair at the time, said he printed up 800 yard-signs to publicize it. Some of them said that St. Cecilia's was the No. 1 festival in Northern Kentucky, which was not true at the time.

But sometimes, he said, you have to fake it until you make it. And it worked. He said Ernie Fletcher, the governor of Kentucky at the time, showed up at the first festival Reynolds chaired because he had heard it was the biggest in Northern Kentucky.

Kaub credited Tizziani's passion about the festival and his willingness to promote it with making it grow.

He's always reminding the parishioners that it's an opportunity for outsiders to see the face of Christ among the festival's 350 volunteers, Reinersman said.

"That's something we all focus on," he said. "People do go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome."

Copyright 2017 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sign up for the Breaking News Newsletter and receive up to date information.

now signed up to receive the Breaking News Newsletter.

Click here to manage all Newsletters

St. Cecilia's three-day festival packs 'em in (2024)


What is so special about Saint Cecilia? ›

Cecilia has been honored as a patron saint of church music since the 16th century. According to the Holy Tradition, she prayed to God and sang sacred chants as she was being led to the altar on her wedding day. Later an angel descended to the bridegroom and bride and placed wreaths of roses and lilies on their heads.

How old was St. Cecilia when she got married? ›

She was young, probably between 12-15 years old, when she was betrothed to a young pagan man named Valerian. Cecilia had a very close relationship with God and was visited by angels on a regular basis who told her she must remain a virgin, a big ask for someone about to get married at the height of puberty.

Did St. Cecilia have any miracles? ›

St. Cecilia is a legendary character of the early Church, which has led to her popularity over the centuries. Various accounts of her life relate extraordinary miracles, including the constant protection of her Guardian Angel.

What is Saint Cecilia's prayer? ›

Saint Cecilia, intercede for all musicians and those working in the music industry. Help them to remain true to themselves and the creative gifts God has given them. May their music help others and do much good in this world, and, one day, may they join the eternal chorus in heaven forever. Amen.

How was St. Cecilia killed? ›

She distributed her possessions to the poor, which enraged the prefect Almachius, who ordered her to be burned. When the flames did not harm her, she was beheaded. Cecilia was buried in the catacomb of St. Callistus, near Rome.

Who forced St. Cecilia to marry? ›

600). According to the story, despite her vow of virginity, her parents forced her to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that, she was later declared the saint of musicians.

When was St. Cecilia killed? ›

Tradition has it that Cecilia, a noble Roman girl, was martyred around the year AD 230, during the reign of Alexander Severus and the papacy of Urban I.

Has there ever been a married saint? ›

Of more than 10,000 formally recognized saints, only about 500 have been married, even though many billions of married people have roamed the Earth over the centuries.

What is St Cecilia's symbol? ›

Although there is no fixed symbol for saint cecilia, many believe that roses and any type of instrument can represernt her well. Insruments, obviously, represent her because she is the Saint of Music. But roses also represent her because many say that roses are a symbol of love and beauty.

What did St Cecilia love? ›

Cecilia lived at the beginning of the 3rd Century and was known, not only for her great beauty, but mainly for her love of Jesus which she expressed through the care of the poor.

What does the name Cecilia mean? ›

Cecilia is a girl's name of Italian origin. Coming from the Latin name Caecilia and the Latin word caecus, it translates to "blind" or "hidden." This can have extra meaning if baby is a shy one that prefers to hide from the spotlight. This name also once served as a title after Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

What was St Cecilia's last words? ›

It is relinquishing a perishable thing and receiving in turn an immortal gift.” In her final moments, she asked Pope St. Urban to consecrate her palace as a church, so that her home would always be the Temple of God. “To die for Christ,” Cecilia said, “is not to sacrifice one's youth, but to renew it.

What is the motto of St Cecilia? ›

St. Cecilia was a fitting intercessor for this new Order with its motto, “To praise, to bless, to preach.” St. Cecilia was also seen to accompany Our Lady in some of her apparitions to St. Dominic and the early brethren, most notably when Mary was seen blessing the friars' cells.

What does St Cecilia teach us? ›

Cecilia is the patron saint of music because, according to legend, she sang in her heart to Jesus on her wedding day to Valerian. She is often depicted in paintings playing an organ. The life and death of St. Cecilia teaches us to be brave and always remain faithful to God.

Why was St. Cecilia made a saint? ›

According to the story, despite her vow of virginity, her parents forced her to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that, she was later declared the saint of musicians.

Why do people pray to Saint Cecilia? ›

Saint Cecilia was a Roman virgin martyr and is venerated as the patron of music and musicians. As musicians played at her wedding, Cecilia “sang in her heart to the Lord.” Musical compositions are dedicated to her, and her feast day is on November 22nd.

What can we learn from the life of St Cecilia? ›

Through the life and witness of St Cecilia we learn that music is both the handmaid of the liturgy and the servant of mission- music and song communicate in ways beyond words alone.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated:

Views: 6736

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.