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Caroline Cass, 7, Katie Kessler, 6, and Eric Cass, 5, enjoy cotton candy at the North American Martyr’s Summer Festival. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review

North American Martyrs’ summer festival has more games and rides than ever before.

The eighth annual celebration in Monroeville continues Saturday after a 4 p.m. Mass. It’s set to conclude around 11 p.m.

Monroeville resident Jenn Schutte brought her nephews, Johnny Schutte, 6, and Teddy, 3, to the festival Thursday.

“My brother and I’ve been riding the same car over and over,” said Johnny. “I love every ride.”

Schutte said the festival offers fun for the whole family and community.

“It brings the whole community together and you get to see people that you don’t usually get to see,” she said. “It’s very nostalgic. We’ve been to the festival every year they’ve had the festival. It gets better and better every year.”

C&L Shows of Mt. Pleasant brought a ferris wheel, swings, a roller coaster and other rides and games. Other festival activities include bingo, a beer and wine tent, various food vendors, live entertainment every night and free face painting.

Event Chairman Matt Zielinski said he expects 15,000 people to participate throughout the four days. It’s expected to raise about $40,000 for the parish.

“That’s not its main purpose,” Zielinski said about raising money. “It’s really more about community (and) having a summer celebration with everyone from the parish. A lot of parish members are volunteers for this to help put this all on.”

At least 30-40 volunteers donate their time to run the booths and other stations.

Some volunteers were concerned about this week being the parish’s last festival due to changes from an upcoming merger.

“There’s a lot of us doing this, and it could be our last year so we’re making it extra special,” said Marie Bronder in the dessert booth. “I think we all want it to be nice and the weather’s nice so that’s a blessing.”

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh plans to merge 188 parishes into 57, and about 80 percent of its priests will be assigned to different churches starting in October as part of a six-county diocese reorganization.

North American Martyrs will combine with St. Bartholomew, St. Susanna and St. Gerard Majella in Penn Hills, St. Bernadette in Monroeville and St. Michael in Pitcairn. Its new parish name has not been determined.

None of the churches will close for at least three years. More details about the mergers is available at diopitt.org/onmission .

It is the last festival for the Rev. Joe Luisi as head of North American Martyrs. He will become chaplain of UPMC Passavant Hospital in McCandless in October, and the Rev. Albert Zapf of Our Lady of Joy Parish in Plum will be taking over for Luisi.

Luisi called the festival “a Catholic block party” and believes the merger would create an extended family for the Monroeville parish.

“People have to be open to the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It’s kind of like when your own biological family grows.”

Luisi spoke with Zapf about continuing the tradition.

“I think he likes the festival,” Luisi said.

Zielinski said he remains positive about the celebration’s unknown future.

“Everyone says doom and gloom things, but you don’t know,” he said. “It’s not given that there will be one next year, but it’s not that this one will be the last one necessarily. No one knows until the new priest comes in.”

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