“Hey, everyone… it’s time for another festival!”
The Friendship Festival brings people together for a day of good fun and fellowship. Friends and mentors, parents and volunteers from Friendship Clubs in churches throughout southern Ontario join with friends from group homes and their caregivers and staff members. Together with festival volunteers, we sing and laugh and have fun together, participate in games and different activities, and enjoy a delicious lunch.
The main goal of the festival is to remind our friends that they are loved by God and by everyone who supports them in their daily lives. Many of our friends live sheltered lives and the festival allows them to participate in a meaningful activity. The festival is also an opportunity for parents and the volunteers and mentors of Friendship Clubs in southern Ontario to meet others and encourage each other in their important work.
We’ve held twelve festivals since 2009. Our most recent festival was held on Saturday, October 28. We had about 250 people and 130 friends join us for the day.
God has blessed our festivals with much joy and good fellowship. It’s always great to see our friends enjoying themselves and meeting new people. We’re especially thankful for the willing hearts and helping hands of volunteers who make the festival a special occasion for everyone who attends.
The festival started as a small idea. After presenting game evenings at various Friendship Clubs, we discussed a way in which to bring the various clubs together. A teaching colleague and I planned the first festival in 2009, which we held at our high school in Milton. We had a good turnout and everyone enjoyed themselves, so we planned a second festival the following year.
In 2012, we moved the festival to Clearview Church in Oakville. Clearview has a Friendship Club and is the host club for the festival. It’s an excellent facility for the festival. Along with a large church sanctuary, there’s a gym, kitchen and meeting rooms.
A small group of us plan two festivals a year. We advertise the festival by letter and email, on our website at www.weloveourfriends.com and on facebook at Friendship Festival Ontario.
The festival typically runs from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Admission is $10 per person. We request food donations from local supermarkets and everyone loves Starbucks coffee and timbits from Tim Hortons! We appreciate local businesses and individuals who make financial contributions. We also receive donations of potted flowers; a bit of a festival tradition is to send every friends home with a plant at the end of the day.
We usually choose a theme for the festival. Recent themes have included “Every Praise,” “Stand Strong,” “Can’t Thank God Enough for You,” “A Strong Young Tree,” and “Butterflies.” A theme allows us to highlight an important spiritual teaching for our friends. A speaker takes the theme and makes it relevant for our friends and guests. A group of young people may present a skit; we always appreciate our young people and their youthful energy and enthusiasm. And we sing at the festival. Our friends love to sing, and we’ve had some wonderful musicians share their talents with us.
We have great memories from previous years. Several years ago, a young man had a choice between attending a Toronto Blue Jays game or the festival, and he chose the festival. And who can forget the cheer that went up a few years ago when Joe wheeled his ice cream truck up to the church. Free ice cream for everyone!
We consider the festival a success if we’re able to brighten a friend’s day. We continue to ask our friends about what they like about the festival. Over the years, friends echo the comments of Nathan Wise, a friend at Woodside Fellowship in Elmira, Ontario. “Great, great events and games! Great weather too. I loved watching the gymnasts doing their routines. I like meeting and seeing new people. It was a great day… I loved it.” Joel Dickinson of Oakville says. “I love the music and playing my guitar. The festival is lots of fun and I like meeting new people”.
You’re invited to attend our next festival on Saturday, May 12, 2018 in Oakville. Bring a big smile and a warm heart. And who knows… perhaps Joe the ice cream guy will show up!
If you want to come to the next festival, please RSVP by sending an email to Marlene.