By Stephanie Dolan
Mascot Lucky the Pig poses with Beatrice Bursten, chairperson of St. Malachy’s Country Fair, slated for this weekend.
Photo by Rick Myers
Looking back to humble beginnings with six parishioners, founded in 1869, St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg is in the midst of a year of celebrating a landmark anniversary. The congregation nods back to its founders during the church’s 150th anniversary, while looking forward to the future.
The entire community is invited this weekend to participate in the annual Country Fair and Hog Roast, which is itself marking a milestone with its 45th edition.
“The 150th anniversary really means a lot to the whole parish and to the community as well,” said Jenny Zeunik, St. Malachy communications and community development staff member. “Just seeing something survive for that long is really amazing. Our church has grown right along with Brownsburg.”
Generations of families have remained at St. Malachy since it was founded, leaving a legacy and the ability to show new attendees what the church has done in the last 150 years and what they plan to do or the next 150 years, Zeunik said.
“Our sesquicentennial year is truly amazing for many families that have been here for decades, if not a century,” said John Kiefer, St. Malachy business manager. “The growth of both the church and the services she provides is humbling. There are many families, both past and present, that have put their passions into St. Malachy and made it their home. The 150th to me is an acknowledgement of the good works the church does and a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, of which none of what we have or do would be possible.”
With the 150th anniversary coinciding with the 45th annual Country Fair, this year’s event will provide two full days of entertainment, fun and food. It serves as a fundraiser for the 45 different ministries that St. Malachy supports or the congregation engages with.
“After Haiti was devastated by the earthquakes, we were there to help them,” said event chair Beatrice Bursten. “We started a health clinic in Haiti. We’re also doing a canned food drive this year because we’ve been a long time contributor to local food pantries, and we’re going to help enhance that.”
Bursten has put in countless hours preparing, crediting those who started the fair in 1974 and the event founder Maggie Maclaine who was the school principal at the time.
“She started it as a way to help fundraise and take care of some expenses at the school,” Bursten said. “The original name was Country Faire, and over the years it’s evolved to what we have today.”
This year’s event will include four bands, Colts and Pacers fan experiences and fireworks to close the fair on Saturday night. The fireworks started last year to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Malachy, and Bursten said they will probably become a mainstay at the fair.
“We even have some of our farmer families bringing out big things like combines and threshers,” Bursten said. “It’s gone from something very simple to a very complex event with all kinds of moving parts.”
After four years as the entertainment chair securing bands and entertainment, Bursten is in her first year as the event chair.
“We started with just a couple of bands, and we’ve expanded to two bands each night,” she said. “We’ve tried to do a nice mix of country bands and rock bands.”
When she’s not working at the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, Bursten likes to serve at St. Malachy church or school, which led to her involvement in fair planning.
“It’s one of those things that you find yourself seeing a need, and if I can help, I’ve been more than happy to jump in and do some things,” she said. “Everybody is putting in time. Everyone is volunteering time that they may not even have, but they’re so concerned about the parish and success of this event that they jump in and do what they can.”
For Zeunik, it’s her favorite time of the year.
“The energy of the whole festival is just catching,” she said. “You can’t help but get excited when you come onto our campus during the fair. The food is fantastic. Our volunteers and cooks are phenomenal.”
It takes about 800 volunteers who help make the fair run for the weekend for those who stop by for a little small town fun.
“I think the most amazing part of the fair is our volunteers,” Keifer said.
Those who serve and take time from their busy schedules see volunteering at the fair as a privilege.
“At St. Malachy, we believe in community,” Kiefer said. “Not only our church community, but also the larger surrounding community of Brownsburg and Hendricks County.”
Tightrope, Southridge, Corn Field Mafia and Big Daddy Caddy make up the band lineup. Other entertainment around the campus includes carnival rides, a choral concert on Friday, raffles, bingo and of course food and drinks.
Organizers believe the fair provides something for everyone. The best thing about the fair for Bursten is just seeing so many people having a good time.
“Not only does it bring our Catholic community together, but it brings Brownsburg and the surrounding areas together,” Bursten said. “Father Sean Danda even has mass on Friday night at 11:30 (p.m.), and that’s just a great way to give thanks.”
Danda is St. Malachy’s new parish priest. He grew up and went to school at St. Malachy and has returned to his roots as the leader.
“I am so proud to be part of this parish from the time I was a kid to today,” Danda said. “I look forward to another 150 years of St. Malachy doing great things. As for Country Fair, I am most looking forward to food and fellowship with our local community when 10,000 of our closest friends join us on our campus for a great party.”
If you go
What: St. Malachy County Fair
When: 4-11 p.m. Sept. 20 and 2-11 p.m. Sept. 21.
Website: See the full schedule at http://stmalachy.org/church/serving-sharing/country-fair
Canned food drive: Bring nonperishable food to help stock the food pantry.
Getting to know Beatrice Bursten
Family: Bursten, 59, has been married to her husband David for more than 25 years. They have a 20-year-old son, Konrad.
Occupation: Coordinator of office operations for the Indiana Non-Public Education Association.
What is your most vivid county fair memory?
When we first moved from the Green Street campus to where we are now, the fair itself was more located out on the grassy area where football field is now. The new church was built. This had to be 11:30 at night. The way the sky was lit with the moon and the way the church was lit from within, it made me stop and think how exciting it was.
What are you currently reading?
Country fair meeting agendas. We have been meeting in earnest since June and probably for the last two months about every other week.
What is your favorite TV show?
What is your favorite movie?
“Young Frankenstein,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Casablanca,” “Singing In the Rain.” You can’t help but smile and feel better when Gene Kelly is dancing around. How can you be in a bad mood after you watch that?
Do you have any pets?
An Alaskan Malamute named Riker. Our son named him after a character on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He’s also a champion show dog. That just happened about a month ago.