Loyalty, commitment, family…those are words spoken often at St. Rita. Nothing personifies those concepts like Winterfest, the annual, parent-run "friendraiser". Over the past 14 years, Winterfest has grown into the legendary mid-winter event that is one of the largest, most entertaining and downright enjoyable parties on the south side of Chicago. It’s all thanks to the hard work and dedication 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 their loyalty to their sons’ school. But not only do people keep coming back, new parents get involved too—that’s the key to Winterfest’s successful longevity.
Planning for Winterfest XIV started almost a year ago, with chairs Todd ‘89 and Kim LeFebvre accepting their roles as chairs of the event. Todd and Kim are parents to Ryan ’17 and Shawn ’21. The Winterfest committee quickly decided on the theme of "Outdoor Family Adventures". Countless hours of behind-the-scenes work went into making Winterfest 2018 a great success. All the hard work of parent volunteers culminated on Saturday, January 27, 2018, as more than 700 St. Rita parents, alumni, faculty, staff and friends all enjoyed a fun-filled evening, complete with dinner from 115 Bourbon Street catering, open bar, live entertainment, and never-duplicated St. Rita hospitality. They also were treated to each area of the school being transformed into creative entertainment venues, based on several adventure settings .
At the entrance of the school, chaired by Laura Nolan, guests were greeted at the "Pure Rita" lobby, our own take on Michigan’s tourism slogan. The McCarthy Center, chaired by John and Shannon Waller was a beach-themed “Rita Wave” where Falco and the 45s Oldies Band kept visitors groovin’ to their tunes. The Dining Hall, chaired by Winterfest veterans Robin Jervier and Roberta Edwards offered a great place to eat dinner in “Camp Cascia” complete with a tubular lantern on each table and a campfires simulated on several video screens.
Drawing a large crowd, first Rico Quinn ‘67 played and then The Connexion Band performed covers of everyone's favorite songs in the gym although it felt like you were actually in a Winter Wonderland (Chaired by Tina Perez and Tim '88 and Mary Carroll! Outside the gym, dozens of raffle baskets and silent auction items were available to bid on as well as share-the-pot raffle tickets and Grand Raffle tickets. As guests moved down the “Mustang State Fair”-themed hallway, chaired by Mike and Julie McDevitt and Mike and Maureen Demer, they found the main office lobby area was the “Lazy SR Ranch”. St. Rita’s very own dude ranch was chaired by Don ’82 and Candace Mitchell and Steve ’86 and Margaret Insley, where the ever-popular Liam Durkin Band created a traffic jam with the large crowd.
Moving along, Winterfest attendees had to race down the the academic hallway, chaired by Terry and Bridget Hixon, John Tolley, and Andrea Vetor, appropriately called “Pit Stop” with a NASCAR theme. In the Van Leuven Center, chaired by Kerrie Cleve and Cathy Larkin, no one could miss the neighborhood favorite Larkin and Moran Brothers keeping the crowd entertained in “Wally World” from the National Lampoon’s Vacation Movie. From there, party-goers could head back to the gym, dining hall or McCarthy Center via the vending hallway, run by Greg '90 and Peggy Blake that was dubbed “Hit ‘Em High Adventures” complete with a zip line.
The Grand Raffle generated 742 ticket sales, producing great odds for the $25,000 grand prize!
At approximately 10:30 p.m. many of the ticket buyers gathered in the gym making the large space filled with a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Head of School Fr. Paul Galetto. O.S.A. made his way to the stage area and announced six winning tickets, one $25,000 grand prize winner and eight $1,000 winners, including grand prize winner Brian Dowling '91.
Shortly thereafter, The Connexion Band came back onstage and packed the dance floor with partygoers dancing to a few more songs--including the what’s become a Winterfest-favorite over the last few years: Bust A Move by Young MC. The anticipation before Winterfest is palpable at 7740 S. Western leading up to the event and the evening really goes by so quickly after months of hard work and preparation; but Winterfest is always a worthwhile endeavor.
Winterfest raises a significant amount of money. This year the St. Rita Family generated over $70,000 that all goes to help keep St. Rita tuition as affordable as possible. Thus, Winerfest is technically a fundraiser; however, 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. Family - that’s important at St. Rita. Around Winterfest time many of us are reminded that “Blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family.” The concepts of loyalty, commitment and family are the main ingredients to Winterfest’s success. Thanks to all of Winterfest’s volunteers, donors, attendees and sponsors.
A special thanks also to Scott and Sue Allen, Nancy Carlin, Patricia Chiappetta, Gary DeCesare, John and Kathleen Daly, Dan Duffy, Laura Fleck, Brendan Garrett, Margie Hopkins, Bill and Karen Manning, Mike and Kim Patton, Margaret Reagan, Pat and Jodi Sampson, Jay Standring, Paul Wojcicki and Mike Zunica and many, many more! Without the work and leadership of all of these people, Winterfest could not occur.
Please patronize our Winterfest sponsors:
The Coghlan Family
The Napleton Family
Bill ’83 & Karen Manning
Russ & Donna Messer