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Photo by James Moss
The Ferris wheel at Bonifest, one of the event’s many amusement park rides.
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Photo by James Moss
Bonifest volunteers share a moment.
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Photo by James Moss
The main stage at Bonifest, which hosted five bands including headliners Ryan Ideus and the Feudin’ Hillbillies and local favorite Dirty Muggs.
EDWARDSVILLE — It was a bright and sunny day, with a light wind that kept the temperature comfortable. The aroma of carnival food drifted across the area from nearby booths, and the joyous squeals of children, mingled with the mechanical sound of amusement park rides in motion, filled the air.
It was Bonifest 2016, which took place May 28 and 29.
“People can come to Bonifest to get great food and good music,” Jamey Perulfi, a co-chair of the annual fundraiser for St. Boniface Parish, said. “It’s the kickoff to summer.”
This year marked Bonifest’s 32nd annual carnival. The event’s roots reach back to when a handful of families from the parish planned a church picnic. In the 32 years since, the festivities have grown to the citywide event it is today.
“It’s really the whole parish coming together,” Chris Amick, a volunteer who ran the book sale at Bonifest, said. “It’s building the parish community.”
One of the highlights of this year’s Bonifest was the 17th annual 5k. This event alone drew 728 participants, said Briana Oller, a co-chair of the event.
The run saw a record-breaking time for the men’s division, as one runner completed the course in 15 minutes, 49 seconds. The previous record was 15:58. The overall male and female winners received a monetary prize and a trophy, while the top three finishers in each age group received a medal.
“The run is probably the best 5k run in the area,” Perulfi, who had the fastest time in his age division, said.
Following the run, Bonifest featured a book sale that included hundreds of titles. Amick said he hoped to raise approximately $1,000 from the sale.
In addition to the 5k and book sale, the bands performing at Bonifest draw a huge crowd every year. Ryan Ideus and the Feudin’ Hillbillies headlined the Friday show, while local favorite Dirty Muggs provided the main performance Saturday night. My Friend Mike, Carrie & the Catapults and Late 4 Work rounded out the other acts.
A staple of the celebration, Dirty Muggs has performed at Bonifest for several years.
“Dirty Muggs has been with us for a while, and they have grown our crowd every year,” Oller said. “We definitely want to make sure we bring a good time and good music to the area.”
Bonifest also featured approximately a dozen carnival rides, and an armband provided guests with unlimited rides. Oller said Bonifest has featured the same options for the last several years, although it used to have inflatable attractions like bounce houses. The organizers switched because older children did not enjoy the inflatables as much, and the inflatable attractions made weather more of a concern.
“We brought in the larger rides and have had great success,” Oller said. “We’ve been very happy with their setup and ride selection. We’ve been really happy that they’re clean and safe and that the kids have a lot of fun.”
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Bluejay Happy Hour allowed festivalgoers to purchase carnival food that included burgers, brats, hot dogs, pork steaks, chicken, pizza, nachos and funnel cakes, all for $8 or less.
The final main attraction of Bonifest was the Big-Bona Giveaway raffle. The grand prize, for which a maximum of 3,000 tickets were sold, was $10,000. Two wheelbarrows of alcohol, tickets to a Paul McCartney show, St. Louis Cardinals tickets, a Luis Vuitton purse set and a Yeti cooler comprised the additional prizes.
While she spoke highly of these aspects of Bonifest, Oller said the people make the event special.
“Even if you’ve just moved here, you will see a face you recognize,” she said. “It’s not just St. Boniface people; it’s the full community. Once you come up, you’ll walk around and see someone you recognize and get to know more and more people. It’s very family-oriented.”
“(All of the proceeds) go back to the parish and the school,” Amick added.
In addition to Oller and Perulfi, Ryan Hentz, Monica Zumwalt and Nicole and Craig Potthast co-chaired Bonifest.
“We want to thank the sponsors that continue to help us out year after year, and all of our hardworking co-chairs and staff,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”