Hattiesburg church prepares for Irish Italian Festival - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg church prepares for Irish Italian Festival

Hattiesburg church prepares for Irish Italian Festival Hattiesburg church prepares for Irish Italian Festival

The scene at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church was quiet Friday, but Saturday morning residents from throughout the Pine Belt will be there celebrating at the annual Irish Italian Festival.

"Well, this is the 11th annual Irish Italian Festival in 2012. So we have been at it for 11 years," said Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Father Tommy Conway.

Conway says the catalyst for this fun-filled festival started 12 years ago after an unfortunate incident.

"Amazingly, out of sadness often times come great things. We had a great parishioner here called James Loftess and he got sick and died in September 12 year ago. We decided afterwards, everybody in and around the church was kind of in a bit of a funk and we decided we needed something lift peoples spirits," said Conway.

And so the festival was born; Conway says it started out for just members of the church.

"Just for our own church members for the first four or five years until we could iron our some kinks, and then we wanted to keep all the Italians happy so we call it the Irish Italian Festival and there we go. It going fantastic for us," said Conway.

What makes it fantastic for the public is the parade, the bands, and no festival would be complete without food.

"One of the things that is very popular in Ireland is called pigs in a blanket. Basically, it is a sausage wrapped up in a pastry, and this year we are trying those for the very first time," said Conway.

Conway says you can't forget the novelty of the festival.

"Meatball in an ice cream cone. Now people think,'Oh, yuck ice cream!,' but there is no ice cream involved we used the cone put the meatball into it, put a little sauce over it and people love it," said Conway.

This year's festival taking place on St. Patrick's Day is the sugar on top. Aside from the event, Conway said they will take time to honor their traditions.

"It is very important for us as Irish people to remember who St. Patrick was and why we celebrate his day, and of course, we have St. Joseph the earthly father of Jesus. His feast day is on the 19th of March so we combine the two and we honor both saints," said Conway.

The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. on 4th street in Hattiesburg, the Celtic mass starts at the church 4 p.m. and the festival will begin at 5 p.m.

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