Basilica Street Festival praises unity, growth

Food and fun highlight a day of fellowship on 8th Street

By Claire Collins

Parishioners of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul gathered together on June 3 for a Street Festival celebrating their unity and growth as a parish, particularly over the last five years.

It was five years ago that the parish council, led by Father David Carter, set out to discern a new parish mission by which they could bring renewal and growth under a new strategic plan. Projects included facilities preservation, outreach to grow numbers and participation, and actively marketing the community and their mission to the world and the local Catholic community.

The Street Festival had been brewing in the minds of Debbie Cliche and Father Carter for some time. However, the parish’s many building updates and renovations, as well as unforeseen circumstances like the coronavirus pandemic, continued to push back the idea.

Father David Carter, rector of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, is shown outside the Chattanooga church with participants in the June 3 parish Street Festival, which was held on 8th Street.

Finishing the basilica’s most recent renovation and capital campaign titled “Under One Roof,” which fixed and updated the roof and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, ended up being the perfect time for such an occasion.

“And that was another part of this celebration,” said Father Carter, who is the basilica’s rector. “We set out to do our strategic plan, and we have accomplished it.”

In addition to accomplishing the five-year strategic plan, Ms. Cliche, the festival’s creator and organizer, wanted to hold an event that would bring the parish together.

“The inspiration came from a parish council meeting we had and how we wanted to bring our communities together,” recounted Ms. Cliche.

The basilica, a diverse parish, holds two English Masses, two Masses in Spanish, and one Latin Mass every weekend, as well as hosts many different ministries and groups.

“You would never see the other communities except on holy days,” Ms. Cliche said. “It just seemed we were so separated. And it was just a goal of mine; I wanted to bring our communities together.”

“Finally, when wrapping up our big capital projects, the time was right,” Father Carter said. “Even though we were outside, in front of the roof, we really were a parish that you could see was under one roof of faith. This was not just the English-speaking part of the parish. It was not just the Spanish-speaking part of the parish. It was not just the Novus Ordo part of the parish. It wasn’t just the Latin Mass part of the parish. It was everybody together.”

Though the original date was rained out, over 500 of the 700-plus sign-ups were in attendance on the rain make-up day. People of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds filled downtown Chattanooga’s 8th Street, the street onto which the basilica opens its doors.

Blue skies and strung lights welcomed large crowds that gathered at tables lining the street. Children enjoyed games and played with balloon swords in the grass in front of the rectory.

Food trucks handed hungry customers delicious authentic Mexican cuisine from Taqueria El Jaguar and barbecue from parishioner Brad Grafton.

Knights of Columbus from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga made and served funnel cakes. People danced in the parking lots and waited hopefully to hear their ticket numbers called to receive raffle prizes.

All the while, volunteers offered tours of the basilica to those interested.

In addition to the food and fun atmosphere, the evening also was composed of music and dancing.

Groupo Folclorico Herencia Maya Miguelence performed a native Guatemalan dance showcasing many unique aspects of Guatemalan culture.

And local dance studio Dance Tonight provided dancing lessons for the festivalgoers led by Casey Haywood.

A volunteer occupies a booth seeking signatures for a painting during the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul Street Festival, which was held June 3 along 8th Street in downtown Chattanooga.

Even though the evening was considered a great success, preparation for the Street Festival wasn’t without its challenges.

“There were so many God moments leading up to the day,” Ms. Cliche said. “We had a lot of hiccups. We find out the emcee has COVID, and the DJ decided to back out.”

However, God did not leave them abandoned.

“I found that through the entire experience people stepped up and wanted to give their talent and do things that they wouldn’t receive money for,” Ms. Cliche joyfully related.

Ms. Cliche was able to see clearly God’s hand blessing the event, from Father Carter stepping in to emcee, fathering his parish family at their communal celebration, to a DJ, Fredy Esteban Jesus Domingo, offering his talents for free.

When asked what made him want to help Ms. Cliche and the parish, Mr. Domingo said, “Hey, I’m part of the community. You guys are my team. So, I said to myself, ‘I won’t let my team nor community down!’”

Mr. Domingo’s company, Chattanooga Services LLC, provides assistance to Chattanooga’s Hispanic community in a variety of ways. His DJ business, however, is just something he does for fun in his spare time.

“The DJ’ing is my hobby. I do this on the side,” Mr. Domingo said. “But when I go and put on a show, I do it with a passion and always think about the other…. When I go out to events, I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love music and love the people that enjoy my rhythm and style!”

Ms. Cliche remembered seeing girls from various backgrounds teaching one another how to dance and inviting each other to learn their dance moves. This was a particularly special highlight for her.

Ms. Cliche also made sure to emphasize that without the aid of many generous volunteers, the day wouldn’t have been possible. She cited Fred Newman’s efforts to put her dreams for the festival into action and her team of leaders on the planning committee as well as the staff at the basilica, including Maria Rist and Marina Delaney.

Ms. Cliche said many hands played a role in making the day a success.

Father Carter was pleased to observe that the Street Festival truly served its intended purpose.

“I think my favorite part of it was just seeing all ages, all backgrounds, all segments and portions of the parish mingling, having fun, sharing time together, eating, drinking, playing, dancing—doing things that a community does. And we did it together,” the basilica parish rector said.

As for Ms. Cliche, though the event was challenging to bring together, she sees the basilica Street Festival as the beginning of a new tradition.

“I’m hoping that we continue doing this every year,” Ms. Cliche said.

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