Portland St. Patrick Summer Fest is an annual event that is approaching 50 years old. It has seen its way through nearly a half-century of changing events, survived a tornado, and still provides a full weekend of family-oriented food and fun!
Our summer festival began in 1972, as a single afternoon of food and games. It was called St. Pat's Summer Circus.
The event grew larger and larger through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, expanding to three days. It acquired a new name, St. Pat's Summerfest, and offered families a full weekend of activities which included kids games, carnival rides, an expanded menu, and mens/womens softball tournaments. The Summerfest beer tent became a popular gathering place for alumni to meet and reminisce.
In the late 90's, travelling carnivals became unaffordable. The beer tent was eliminated, and attendance fell dramatically.
In 2006, Summerfest was reinvented and renamed St. Pat's Parish Festival: The beer tent came back, but with a new name, the Gathering Tent; a Sunday chicken dinner was added; the kids area was beefed up with new games and inflatables; an Outdoor Mass was added on Sunday morning. Attendance once again began to climb.
A funny thing happened, though. Despite the new name, no one called it the Parish Festival, everyone still called it Summerfest. So after a few years, the name was changed, yet once again, back to Summerfest.
In 2015, four days before Summerfest was to be held, a tornado hit Portland and Father Flohe Field was right in the path. The buildings, scoreboards, and fences were destroyed. Summerfest was very nearly cancelled.
But, the people of St. Pat's and the entire community rallied around the festival, cleaned up the field and prepared to celebrate Portland Strong. Attendance was phenomenal, and St. Pat's donated 20% of the profits to the Portland Area Ministerial Association who were supplying grants for people needing post-tornado assistance.
In 2017, Summerfest got another makeover. A professional group (Journey Tribute Band) was hired for Friday night and a local group (Skank) with a large following made their Summerfest debut. The two groups drew fans from far outside of Portland. The youth baseball tournament, in its 2nd year, also drew in hundreds of new people.
In 2018, the parish received a call from a lawyer in Milwaukee stating that the name Summerfest had been copywrited and it could no longer be used. The name was changed just slightly to Summer Fest (two words).
Despite the name changes over the year, one thing remains unchanged. The people of Portland St. Patrick work hard to create an event that appeals to the whole family. The midway is laid out so that parents can sit inside the tent, enjoying an adult beverage, and can keep an eye on the children who are playing games and climbing on the inflatables. The sports tournaments provide competitive games at a cost below most venues. The food at the Food Tent is homemade and reasonably priced so that families can eat several meals there and not kill their monthly budget. The beer tent provides a great place for adults to go on Friday and Saturday nights for some great music, some great food and drinks, and some great company.
We invite you to come to Summer Fest this year. See for yourself why we're so proud of our event!