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Columban Fathers’ historic outdoor festival to return Aug. 26

Sylvia Thompson, a longtime member of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue, remembers the Columban Fathers’ annual outdoor festival at the missionary society’s U.S. headquarters just up Calhoun Street from St. Mary Church.
 
“My kids lived for it,” Thompson said. “They had booths with games, throw darts at balloons, roll the ball and a cake walk. We just went up there and spent the day.”
 
Held for years until they ended in the 1990s, the festival is coming back Aug. 26 to help the Columban Fathers celebrate their 100th anniversary as a society of apostolic life.
 
There will be live Latino, Irish and other music, booths with games, a rock climbing wall, bounce houses and four food trucks, a beer garden, a water misting tent to cool off and time to visit, said Juan Carlos Garcia, the society’s director of Hispanic ministry and coordinator of the festival. 
 
“It’s a way to say ‘thank you’ to the community,” he said. 
 
Father Tim Mulroy, regional superior of the Columbans, said he meets many people who remember the annual gatherings with great fondness.
 
“It gave people time to visit, have a good family festival,” he said.
 
Relaxing, visiting and watching their four children play were big parts of the festival for Thompson and her husband, George.
 
“It was always cool up there on the hill,” she said. “There was always a breeze, and you were under the trees. People came from Omaha parishes and Iowa, people with connections in some way to the Columbans. It was tons of fun.”
 
And the Thompsons will celebrate those memories along with other supporters of the Columban Fathers at the festival in August. Three of their children and their families live in the Omaha area; the fourth will be back visiting; all plan to attend.
 
“It will be fun to bring it back,” she said of the festival.

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