Festival unites Hispanic,  Anglo communities

Anne Marie Amacher
Payasito Churrumais entertains St. Anthony parishioners and visitors during Kermes Sept. 12 in downtown Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — St. Anthony Parish held its first carnival or festival-like event, “Kermes,” on Sept. 12. Main Street, which borders the parish, was closed off to vehicular traffic for the day.

Members of the former St. Mary Parish brought Kermes to St. Anthony Parish when the two parishes merged in July 2020. Alicia Nava Vierya, who co-chairs the Kermes committee, said St. Mary hosted Kermes for four years. The event features food, games, music and dancing. It began when now-retired Father Ed O’Melia served as pastor of St. Mary.

“I started doing it to raise money to fix the brick wall outside the rectory (at St. Mary). We wanted our parish to look nice and that was a way, or should I call it an opportunity, for the Hispanic community to help sell our delicious food,” Nava Vierya said. In the beginning, participants were predominantly Hispanic parishioners and neighbors. By the third year, more Anglos participated. The event’s popularity grew with both groups each year, she said.


Nava Vierya brought up the idea to celebrate Kermes at St. Anthony, said Al Gahagan, parish trustee and Kermes co-chair. He and John Cooper, pastoral associate for St. Anthony, thought the event would be another great way to welcome the former St. Mary parishioners.
Cooper said this year’s event combined Kermes’ traditions with some of the St. Anthony Parish picnic traditions, such as pie judging, Bingo and children’s games.

“We have had a very positive response to this first big social/fundraising event for our merged parish. People looked forward to eating authentic Mexican food since we merged last summer.”

The traditional fare includes tacos, tortas, gorditas, pambazos, chicarrones and aguas frescas. Each offering has been a hit each year, so Nava Vierya said organizers would continue to offer variety. Traditional dancing is also a tradition. When the two parishes were merging, continuation of Kermes was a priority to “to help our new parish.”

“Kermes is a big success with both communities — Hispanic and Anglo — working together as brothers and sisters,” she said. “We had a great response from parishioners with several donations and have had a good number of people donate their time to help out,” Gahagan said.

Cooper sees the event as a way to celebrate the first full year of the parish merger and as a time for parishioners to get to know one another. “Parishioners have embraced this event.”

Funds raised from Kermes will support students at All Saints and Assumption High School, both in Davenport.

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