COVENTRY — Every year for more than six decades, Saints John & Paul Parish has hosted its Snowflake Bazaar. The event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the parish, Fr. Michael Woolley said, and has become a beloved holiday tradition among community members.
But like just about everything else that’s had to transform since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the bazaar this year will look quite a bit different than it has in the past.
“We’re calling it the ‘10-10-2020 Outdoor Snowflake Bazaar,’” Woolley said of this year’s event, the 63rd annual. “It’s the biggest community event for our parish, and people really look forward to it.”
Typically held over a couple of days in mid-November, the holiday-themed event this year will take place on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend.
The single-day event will feature many of the usual Snowflake Bazaar gifts and treats, from baked goods and takeaway snacks to jewelry, sports memorabilia and other crafts, made by hand in the “Angel’s Workshop.” The Holiday Cheer Wine Booth will let attendees take their chances on winning some wine; a big quilt will be given away as a raffle prize.
“I would say 75 percent of what we usually have at the bazaar is going to be there,” Woolley said.
Musical entertainment is expected, he said, and even Santa should be making an appearance.
But unlike in past years, when tables of gifts and festive decorations filled the parish hall, this year the bazaar will be set up in the church parking lot. Attendance will be limited to 250 people at a time, contract tracing information will be collected and masks and social distancing will both be mandatory.
A few of the usual favorites, like the “straw draw,” will also be missed this year due to concerns over virus transmission. However some new activities, like Cow Chip Bingo, will be added in their place.
The bazaar committee, co-chaired by Nancy Sullivan and Linda Sinnott, has been planning the event since June, Woolley said.
“We’ve had to be creative and think outside the box,” he said of coming up with the plan, which received state approval last week.
“While on the one hand, we’re probably not going to make as much money as we usually do,” Woolley continued, “on the other hand, we’re doing something different that I think is going to energize people.”
Woolley said he’s happy to give those who have been largely homebound since March something to look forward to, and hopes the bazaar also appeals to those whose usual Columbus Day Weekend traditions, like the Scituate Art Festival, have been canceled this year.
“We’re determined to do this,” Woolley said, “despite the obstacles.”
The fundraiser is especially important now, he added, since churches have struggled to raise money this year with far fewer people than usual filling their pews.
In addition to rethinking its biggest annual fundraiser, Saints John & Paul Parish has had to adapt in a number of ways amid the pandemic.
The parish began holding virtual Masses on St. Patrick’s Day, and has been live streaming its Masses on Facebook since. After the state gave the OK on May 30 for limited in-person church services to resume, Saints John & Paul Parish switched to a hybrid model of worship, holding Mass both in-person and virtually.
Prior to the pandemic, the parish held five weekend Masses each week. Now there are three — one on Saturday afternoons and two on Sunday mornings. And compared to the crowd of some 300 that used to attend the Saturday Mass, only around 75 parishioners attend in person these days, Woolley said. Likewise, he said, attendance at the morning Masses has dropped from approximately 250 to around 150.
“We’re getting more and more people coming to church,” Woolley said, noting that because of virus restrictions the church can currently only fit 190 people at a time.
When religious education classes begin again next month, those will be held virtually. Confirmation in mid-October will look a lot different, as well, with each person being confirmed allowed to bring only his or her sponsor and two family members.
The parish school, meanwhile, is back to full, in-person learning.
Students at the Father John V. Doyle School, which serves kids in pre-kindergarten through grade eight, returned to the classroom Sept. 8. Except for two families that opted for distance learning, all 160 children who make up the student body are attending in person, Monday through Friday.
“That was a great milestone,” Woolley said.
“We’ve got a lot of grit and resolve,” he continued. “We’re SSJP strong.”
The 63rd annual Saints John & Paul Parish Snowflake Bazaar will take place Saturday, Oct. 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 341 South Main St., Coventry. In the event of rain, the event will be held Sunday.