Winterfest Brings The St. Rita Family Together

By: Mike Swanson

Family--we use that word often at St. Rita High School. Some of us say, "Blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family". Winterfest is a true example of loyalty. What started out as a "Friendraiser" bringing St. Rita parents together 12 years ago, has grown into legendary status as one of the largest, most well-known and downright fun parties on the south side of Chicago. This is all due to the loyal volunteerism of St. Rita High School Parents. Once people get involved, they keep coming back year after year, because of the fun they have, friends they make and because of loyalty.


Planning for Winterfest XII started months ago, with chairs Pat and Jodi Sampson running the show.  The Winterfest committee quickly decided on the theme of "Family Classics", based on classic cinema favorites. Countless hours of work went into making Winterfest 2016 a great success.



All the hard work culminated on Saturday, January 23, 2016,  as over one thousand St. Rita parents, alumni, faculty, staff and friends all enjoyed a lively evening filled with dinner from 115 Bourbon Street Catering, open bar, live entertainment, and St. Rita hospitality. They also were treated to each area of the school being transformed into creative entertainment centers, based on many classic movies.

Upon entrance, guests were greeted at the "Frazier Thomas" Lobby. The McCarthy center was decorated as Breakfast at Tiffany's where The Shy Lads kept the crowd entertainedThe dining hall offered a great place to eat dinner with music by Groove Dynasty, in a room based on Lady Sings the Blues. Always drawing a large crowd, Final Say performed covers of everyone's favorite songs in the gym in a Wizard of Oz wonderland. Outside the gym, well over one hundred raffle baksets and silent auction items were available as well as share-the-pot raffle tickets and Grand Raffle tickets. As guests moved down the hallway, they found the main office lobby area was St. Rita's version of Rydell High from the musical Grease. Moving along, Winterfest attendees had to traverse the Old West's OK Corral academic hallway, complete with it's own jail cell and featuring Pollyanna Brew. In the Van Leuven Center, at the end of the academic hallway, no one could miss the neighborhood favorite Larkin and Moran Brothers and Irish Ceili Dancers keeping the crowd entertained in The Quiet Man's Pat Cohan Bar--also a great place to grab a corned beef sandwich.

The Grand Raffle tickets sold out again this year. At approximately 11:30 p.m. many of the 900 ticket buyers gathered in the gym making the large space filled with a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Fr. Tom McCarthy. O.S.A. '83 made his way to the stage and pulled nine winning tickets--one $20,000 grand prize winner and eight $1,000 winners. Shortly after, the band came back onstage to close the night out with a few more songs--including the late 1980's favorite "Bust A Move" by Young MC, that not surprisingly got many people busting a move!

It's amazing how fast Winterfest night flies by after months of hard work and preparation; but Winterfest is always a worthwhile endeavor. Winterfest raises a significant amount of money that all goes to help keep St. Rita tuition as affordable as possible, technically making it a fundraiser, but we strive to make sure the "Friendraiser" tradition and heritage of the event keeps the St. Rita Family growing year after year, because the St. Rita community truly is a family.


A special thank you goes out to all the volunteers, especially our room and raffle chairpersons:

  • Linda and Tom Fitzgerald
  • Nancy Carlin
  • Bridget and Chris Czubernat
  • Peggy Blake
  • Kim Patton
  • Ruth and John '81 Leyden
  • Sue Allen
  • Jeanne Qualter
  • John Daly
  • Mike and Tricia Beam
  • Mary and Tim '88 Carroll
  • Allison Caldwell Perkins
  • Shannon and John Waller
  • Margaret and Steve '86 Insley
  • Lisa Healy and Dawnn Albrecht
  • Julie and Mike McDevitt
  • Lisa and Frank Vasquez
  • Sally Kirby

We also recognize our amazing staff who put in many extra hours to make Winterfest happen, including father and son team of Brendan Garrett and Brendan Garrett, Pat Mitchell, Jim GaylordMargie Hopkins, John O'Neill '79, Mike Swanson, Dan Duffy and Sue Connolly.

Please patronize our sponsors!

  • The Allen Family
  • Allison's Infant & Toddler Center
  • Beverly Bakery
  • Binny's (Evergreen Park)
  • 115 Bourbon Street
  • Budweiser (Lakeshore Beverages) Chicago
  • Chicago Classic Rentals
  • Chicago Cream Puffs and Cakes
  • Edible Arrangements (12844 S. Ashland, Calumet Park)
  • Fiesta Linen
  • John Tolley
  • Lang Ice (Chicago)
  • Mario's Catering
  • Pollyanna Brew
  • Tuzik's Bakery
  • United Radio Communications (Bridgeview)
  • Wolf's Bakery

Photo Credits: Pat Lenehan and Mike Patton (Portraits Plus)