By Alexandra Nicolas
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Anymore, the brothers at the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix don’t try to keep track of how many people flood Carthage for Marian Days.
“That’s the question every year,” said Father John Tran, who handles public relations for the CMC. “At about 60,000 to 70,000, we stopped counting.”
From Aug. 5-8, Carthage will be host to one of the country’s largest Roman Catholic festivals as Vietnamese Catholics from across the country — and some from around the world — gather at the CMC campus for four days of music, food, conferences and prayer.
Every year the CMC must get the necessary permits for the festival and prepare to meet the needs of up to 70,000 people living on about 20 acres. Tran said the CMC had begun adding free-standing structures to its property, such as a performance pavilion, to save time and labor preparing for the annual event.
“We build the new stuff to make it more convenient and we’ve built permanent stuff so we don’t have to take it down,” he said. “We add more restrooms every year, this year we are building another one with 20 some restrooms and 20 some showers, and it’s never enough. We still rent portables.”
While many of the pilgrims visiting Marian Days camp with their families, some arrive in large groups by charter bus and stay in one of the 90 large tents that, according to Tran, sleep anywhere from 50 to 70 people.
Though the majority of people visiting Marian Days camp, some stay in hotels and many purchase gas, food and other essentials while in Carthage.
According to Wendi Douglas, executive director of the Carthage Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, it’s difficult to measure just how much economic impact Marian Days has on the Carthage community.
“Of course, it is very significant,” she said. “It’s a big economic impact and I really couldn’t attach any numbers to that.”
Marian Days also involves a year’s worth of planning for city officials such as Carthage Police Capt. Randee Kaiser.
With six police agencies involved, planning and preparing the community for Marian Days takes meetings and the pooling of resources. Roadblocks must be manned, cameras set up on the grounds and refreshments and communications between officers arranged.
The department also notifies neighbors of the upcoming festival and makes note of who is and is not willing to have pilgrims camp in their front yard.
“People who camp in yards have been doing it for several years, so it’s kind of a neat relationship that the visitors have with our residents,” Kaiser said.
Tran said the community has always been supportive and understanding of the work involved in preparing for Marian Days and noted that people of other denominations “welcome the pilgrimage very well.”
“At the beginning we start feeling like it’s all this work,” Tran said. “But then all those people come and everybody comes and gets something out of it, friendship, or the religion.”
The 33rd annual Marian Days festival will be held Aug. 5-8 at the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix, 1900 South Grand in Carthage.