Thousands ignored the reading of "hot!" on the temperature gauge on Saturday and came out to participate in and show support for the third annual Family Faith Festival held in downtown Lodi.
To an uninformed observer, Saturday's downtown activities may have appeared to be just another street fair. Kids were playing on inflatable playgrounds, booths and vendors lined the streets, and thousands mulled around from venue to venue. But the atmosphere of the festival -- the music playing, the puppet shows, the materials at the booths -- eventually give it away. There is a distinctively religious theme.
Churches from all over the Lodi and Stockton areas set up shop on School Street and surrounding streets downtown to provide the community an atmosphere of fun, while having an opportunity to share their faith.
That's just one of several reasons for having a Family Faith Fest, said Cheryl McLaughlin, event coordinator for the Family Faith Festival.
"The point of holding such an event is threefold," McLaughlin said. "Number one, it is an outreach. We tell people to invite their neighbors -- we want to give our community the opportunity to see what we have to offer."
"Number two, we want our community to see the body of Christ all working together. And number three, it's not about pushing forward our individual churches. It's about providing individual ministries to people and showing the community that we are here to help in any way we can. It's about serving the community," said McLaughlin.
This year's event drew approximately the same attendance as last year, which was estimated by organizers to be somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000 people.
From the Stadium 12 theater all the way down to the post office, and including side streets, activities to suit all ages were full of visitors. More than 80 different booths, activities and ministries as diverse as a teen zone complete with skateboard park, to Christian bands, Pregnancy Resource Center, the Bible Times Marketplace, Christian Motorcyclists and more offered information or at least a friendly conversation. And one of the best features is that every one of the events was free.
When asked why they chose to attend a Family Faith Festival, most of the visitors answers were surprisingly similar. They simply wanted to come enjoy fellowship with other Christians and have fun.
Metro Kidz of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship and Lord's Gym present a puppet show for children during the third annual Family Faith Festival. (J. Paul Bruton/News-Sentinel)
"We're from New Harvest Christian Fellowship in Stockton," said Michael Salazar as he walked School Street with his family in tow. Salazar also echoed the sentiments of others in attendance, stating that he too just wanted to come out with his family to show support for all of the area churches while having a good time of fellowship.
"It's a good atmosphere here -- a pleasant spirit," he said. "It's our first time here, but I'll definitely be back next year."
"And next year, the 2005 event is going to be incredibly different and exciting. We've got some big plans," McLaughlin said.
Contact reporter J. Paul Bruton at firstname.lastname@example.org