MERIDEN — Children dressed as angels and shepherds led the living nativity procession at the Franciscan Life Center’s Christmas Fair on Saturday as visitors took pictures.
The 26th annual event is one of the center’s major fundraisers and draws thousands from area towns.
“We’re so grateful for all the people who come back year after year,” said Sister Barbara Johnson, executive director of the center.
Crowds moved between tents with food, crafts, books and activities throughout the day. People waited in line for chestnuts, roasted on an open fire, near the fair entrance.
Johnson said about 200 volunteers help make the day possible. There were 35 booths run by people who bring their own food or wares.
“All year long people work at preparing things for the fair,” she said. “It all comes together the day before the fair.”
Funds raised at the fair as well as the center’s other events go toward home and hospice care, counseling and education programs.
Some who attend the fair have a unique connection to the center. Johnson said up until this year they had an adoption agency which placed a number of children in the 1980s. Some now have families of their own.
“Now these babies are grown up and come back to the fair with their adoptive parents,” Johnson said. “It’s lovely.”
Bernice Kijewski and Stephanie Horn, New Haven residents and friends for decades, attended Saturday’s fair. They debated how many years they’ve been coming, settling on at least 20.
The two are always impressed with how much is on offer and the food, particularly the fried dough pizza.
“There’s so many goodies, Kijewski said. “There’s an awful lot put together.”