Every Memorial weekend since 1984, St. John Neumann Church (and their Cathederal Camp), located in East Freetown, have been holding an annual festival. Families from all over come each year on this holiday weekend to the festival for the Giant Barn Sale, raffles, homemade baked goods, amusement rides, food, games, auctions, face painting and on Sunday of the festival there is an Antique Car show held each year.
Before St. John Neumann church was built, the site was actually known as Cathedral Camp. Part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River, there is still a summer program each year for kids ages 4 – 14, available to children of any color, race or creed. The camp is located off of Rt. 18, and is situated on the largest natural body of water in Massachusetts, called Long Pond.
Cathedral Camp began over ninety years ago as a place for children to go during summer months, and also as a retreat for adults in the Catholic community. The attendance grew as did the demand to build a church on site, so in 1984 they decided to have the Lakeside Family Festival in order to raise money for their new church. It wasn’t until 1988 did they accumulate enough funds for the new Parrish. The Lakeside festival has been so successful that the tradition carries on to this day, and will continue on for many years to come.
Since I can remember I have made the festival my own tradition, first going with my parents, then as a teen with friends. The festival was the place to be if you attended Apponequet High School in Lakeville. Once I got married and had children of my own I continued going, and now my children look forward to this event each year. As we drive by the site and watch the rides being put up my children count down the days until it opens. When it closes on Monday, my children remind me that there are 364 more days until the festival.
The Lakeside Festival has brought many good memories and experiences I will never forget. It will be part of my conversations to my grandchildren when I am old and gray, telling them about spending Memorial weekend at the festival. The festival, for me, marked the beginning of summer. School was almost done, and we were able to break the rules a bit, if only for a weekend. Like eating cotton candy and popcorn for lunch instead of something healthy (my mother always made me having something healthy before any junk food). Running from ride to ride to get on first and have pick of the best seat, screaming on the top of my lungs and not having to use “an inside voice.” Now being older, I still feel that I can be a kid and let loose when heading to the festival, but in different ways, like eating fried dough first and then heading over to get my favorite clam cakes and chowder, or perhaps placing a bet on the turtle races or going on a ride.
Attending the festival in the day is totally different than going at night. During the day there are the families with young kids and grandparents enjoying family time, watching the excitement of their toddlers going on their first ride. The lines aren’t long, you pretty much don’t have to wait to do anything, and you can then take a walk down to the beach that is behind all the rides and sit down if you like, and enjoy the view of the lake.
As the sun sets, however, the atmosphere of the festival changes. The lights on all the rides come alive, blinking, luring you to each one like a moth to an outside light; loud dance music blares from speakers, and the teenagers come. The lines get longer and the area does get packed, making it hard to walk around with all the packs of teens. I am not discouraging anyone from going at night but this is what happens, so I do suggest if you have small children you would have a better time attending during the day.
The Lakeside festival is a great place to come, it’s safe, they offer great food and maybe you could start your own tradition of coming. I know I am counting down the days and planning on eating whatever (forget the diet). I hope this will continue until it reaches its 100th anniversary, although I don’t think I will be around to see it.