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February 3, 2013

From confession to coffee, 'How To Festival' a hit

Dan Eversman presents tips on “How to Fix Your Bicycle.” (Photo by Caroline B. Mooney)

Dan Eversman presents tips on “How to Fix Your Bicycle.” (Photo by Caroline B. Mooney)

By Caroline B. Mooney

WEST LAFAYETTE — Hallways teemed with more than 300 people from throughout the community at the inaugural “How To Festival” held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Jan. 26.

The free, five-hour event offered 46 topics and presenters who included the parish priests, staff members, the mayors of Lafayette and West Lafayette, plus Purdue University staff and students. Five sessions were held with as many as 11 different topics to choose from per session. Each presentation lasted from 30 to 60 minutes.

“I love the idea; it’s something they should do every year,” said Lafayette resident Kathy Mayer. “I wanted to come and show support so St. Thomas will do it again. It’s nice that it’s for the community and that it’s all done by volunteers. It’s an ambitious event with very interesting topics.”

Talks ranged from “Make a T-shirt Scarf,” “Improve Your Photography Skills” and “Improvise on the Piano, for Any or No Skill Level,” to “Let Go of Distracting Thoughts so You Can Pray” and “Make the Most of the Sacrament of Confession.”

“We are just thrilled with the day,” said Father Patrick Baikauskas, OP, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas. “It really accomplished all that we wanted. We were hoping to use this as a vehicle not just for St. Thomas members and not even just for Catholics, but for people who have never been to St. Tom’s before. We can share the gifts of our parishioners.

“I think it was a great success,” he said. “We had such a varied program, with both secular and religious sessions. It was gratifying to see a lot of interest on topics like reconciliation, the architecture of St. Tom’s and the Christian perspective of dreams, as well as fun things. I saw very young children to elderly people, students and residents, all having a great time. People came up to me saying, ‘Please, do this again.’”

“We accomplished what we wanted to,” said Leo Plomin, event coordinator. “We had a lot of interesting talks and people had a good time. When you have a choice of nine or 10 topics and select one of those, clearly you have an interest in it. To have a roomful of people who made that decision, with a presenter who is glad to be there, generates a lot of questions, interaction and makes for a fun atmosphere.

“The real motivation for all of this was we wanted people to come to the parish who have never been here,” he said. “One of the talks was ‘How to Receive Tweets from Pope Benedict XVI,’ and that’s really what this was all about — combining faith-based and purely recreational topics. We drew people in with fun things like ‘How to Make Beer’ and many went on to spiritual topics. Several of our presenters came to me with ideas that they really wanted to share.”

One hour is not enough to learn everything about a topic, “but it is a way for people to get their feet wet and see if it is something they want to follow up on and learn more about,” Plomin said.

Brad Bodine, music coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas, ran out of handouts when 20 people — instead of the four he expected — came to his talk on “How to Sing Well in 60 Minutes.”

“We learned how to breathe and did different exercises and then we ended up singing ‘Amazing Grace’ together,” said Winnie Morehead, a Brookston resident, who heard about the event from a co-worker. “It was cool because I have never been in a choir, and it makes me want to join one now. I liked that young kids were there, too, not just adults.”

Olivia Pedley, 11, said she and her sister Colleen, 9, attended the singing presentation and were excited to attend “How to Grow a Garden Container” and “How to Get Started Making Pottery.” 

The girls’ mother, Storie Pedley, said her family recently moved to West Lafayette.

“We had just been to Mass twice when we heard about this event,” she said, “and we thought it would be a great way to get out in the community, meet more people and learn some stuff.”

Ben Horstman, a Purdue student majoring in nuclear engineering, presented “How to Make an Omelet.”

“I used to work at a retirement home as a back line chef, so I learned a few tricks,” he said. “Flipping food in a pan is a good skill for any chef.”

“I thought this would be a good day to get out of the house and the day was filled with interesting topics,” said St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner Joe Kmec. “I watched the omelet making, and I’m not sure I’m ready to flip eggs, but it was really neat.”

West Lafayette resident Elaine Hannigan said she attended with her husband “because so many presentations interested me and I wanted to support a local church. It’s always fun to learn something — especially when it’s local. It’s a great way to get out and see people. The only problem is, now my husband will expect me to make perfect omelets.”

Ann Caddy attended with her husband and their 12-year-old son.

“It sounded like a great idea and a good community builder,” she said. “My son and I got an espresso-making machine for Christmas. We have been to K. Dees coffee shop and we saw that the owner would be here teaching ‘How to Make the Perfect Espresso,’ so we wanted to attend that. Flipping omelets was fun to see — it was a real treat to not only see how to make one, but to eat it, too. I want to go home and try my hand at it.”

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