Festival of Sharing Roots brings people together

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PITTSFIELD -- A couple of clowns were hanging around St. Joseph Church's Festival of Sharing Roots on Sunday, laughing and acting goofy.

Their names were Peachy and Stickers. They pledged not to reveal their real names, but a reporter wrangled it out of them: Peachy was Angela Harding, Stickers was her older sister, Rita Laviolette.

"We are not, sir, ‘just clowns,' " said Stickers, a tad nettled. "We also make balloon animals. We can make balloon octopi, balloon flowers, balloon bumblebees, balloon hats and balloon hummingbirds."

The two were part of the entertainment for this year's Festival of Sharing Roots, along with several bands, various booths and a tag sale. The festival is a way of bringing the Pittsfield community together, according to Jack Laviolette, co-chairman of the event with Debbie Mathis.

"It's a way of sharing our ethnic diversity," said Jack Laviolette, who also happens to be Stickers' husband.

Jack Laviolette estimated that about 50 volunteers donated their time. Several hundred residents and visitors attended on Sunday afternoon.

"This is our response to the 9/11 tragedy," said the Rev. Michael Shershanovich, the pastor of St. Joseph. "There was so much pain when it happened. We wanted to find a way to bring people together. Despite everything, we are all God's children."

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Shershanovich added that the closing of many of the Catholic churches in the city several years ago was another reason to host a festival.

"That was an event that made a lot of people feel disconnected and unwanted," he said. "We want to remind them that it's not so."

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Jack Laviolette also pointed out that there were several food booths at the festival, as well, and there certainly were. In fact, a big part of the festival is the food, arrayed in tents along the church's front walkway.

The booths featured Italian, Polish, French, Irish. African, Brazilian and American food, as well an array of soups.

Peaches and Sticky -- or was it Peachy and Stickers? -- were pretty entertaining, but the food is what pulls a lot of people to the Roots Festival.

"I love coming here," said Jim Izzo, a parishioner of the church. "We appreciate what the church is doing here. People coming together and connecting."

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Izzo admitted that he was Italian, and that he had partaken of the Italian sausages, which he pronounced were "excellent." But, he said, soon he would be off to the Polish tent for golabkis.

"I want to get one before I leave," he said.

Janice Lebeau and Marlene Martel, two of the volunteers, confided that the Brazilian tent offered a chicken-and-rice dish that was "outstanding", in Martel's words as they took a break.

But, said Lebeau, they also recognized what the fair meant to the church and the residents of the city.

"It fosters the sense of community we have here," said Lebeau. "It's nice to come out and meet people."

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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