SHENANDOAH -- Going out in style is what members of a century-old church in Schuylkill County plan to do.
At the end of the month, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Shenandoah will have its final mass, but not before a big festival next weekend.
Organizers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel said they have been working for five years to put on this final festival. It marks a century of serving the Italian community in Shenandoah and a chance to say goodbye.
The tri-colored tinsel is already shining in the sun and 5,000 meatballs are on ice. For organizers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Shenandoah, the festival they've been planning for five years is just days away.
"The bar area will be on that lot, the food will be right here, and the bingo will be on that end of the block," explained organizer Lisa Arant.
For a century, the church was at the heart of Shenandoah's Italian community, complete with a big festival every July. But over the years things changed.
"A lot of the young people here and in all of the surrounding communities moved away for better jobs and better opportunities."
The festivals stopped until some parishioners got together and started raising money for a 100th anniversary spectacular.
But as the big event approached, the news came that the church that held so many memories would soon be closing and merging with others in town.
The festival would also be a farewell.
"We're going to be able to say, look what we did, we are going out the way our ancestors came in, so that is what we are going to do," said organizer Sue Probition.
The Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue will travel through the streets of Shenandoah for hours during the festival. Parishioners also hope it will travel with them to the new church.
"It's very sad to know that it is coming. It is a beautiful tradition, and the following week will be the closing of the church and it will bring a lot of tears and sadness to everybody," said Jim Pellegrino.
Money raised at the festival will go to the new parish a gift from the past to the future.
"It's absolutely a gift from Our Lady of Mount Carmel," said parish office manager Kay Zagrosky.
While the emotions are mixed, organizers promise next week's festival will be fun.
They said the two dishes you have to try are the porketta and the wedding soup.
The festival begins next Friday, July 18 at 5 p.m.