Wednesday August 8, 2012

"We're still pinching ourselves," said Father C.J. Waitekus of St. Ann Roman Catholic Church in Lenox. Champagne corks were popped at a meeting following the three-day Summer Festival July 13-15, a communitywide gathering that included a casino night, a Taste of the Berkshires dinner, and many other family-friendly attractions.

After all the bills were paid, said Father C.J., the fundraiser netted $45,000 for the parish, triple the amount raised in recent years by the festival's predecessor, known as the Lawn Party.

"We've never had such amazing attendance," he said, crediting the "very collaborative effort" by organizers of the festival as well as ideal weather. The proceeds cut in half the remaining $90,000 owed to the Knights of Columbus church fund to repair the church's aging heating system and the top of its bell tower. St. Ann had originally taken out a $275,000 loan from the Knights.

According to Father C.J., family competitions held on the back lawn -- three-legged races and potato sack races -- were especially successful, "right out of ‘Little House on the Prairie,'" he noted.

Other aspects of the festival, which returns on the second full weekend of July next year, include a UNICO-prepared pancake breakfast, the casino night, a live auction and the Saturday-evening sit-down dinner.

"The overall spirit catapulted the festival into the stratosphere," Father C.J. said. "The coming together of people from so many different faiths made it a community celebration."

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The Pittsfield Police Department's top K9, Raimo, is the cover dog for the Vested Interest in K9s Inc.'s 2013 calendar. The nonprofit group raises money -- from private donations to calendar sales -- to buy bullet- and stab-protective vests for police dogs in Massachusetts and throughout the United States.

Pittsfield Police Officer Dwane Foisy and Raimo also appear together for the calendar's month of March.

The calendar is on sale for $15 online at www.vik9s.org and at locally at Greylock Animal Hospital, 1028 State Road, in North Adams.

Sandy Marcal, president of the East Taunton nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s Inc., said the group has outfitted 106 police dogs -- from local police departments to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections -- with the protective vests over the past 2 1/2 years.

Marcal said there are presently more than 20 law enforcement dogs waiting for a bullet- and stab-protective vests, which cost $1,006 apiece.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers. Visit the County Fare blog at www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/countyfare.