Carthage, Missouri is preparing for its 32nd celebration of Marian Days, an annual event popular among Vietnamese Catholics for its opportunities to worship and to reunite with friends and family. Between 50,000 and 70,000 are expected for the event, one of the largest Catholic gatherings in the United States.
Carthage police use a five-page checklist to prepare for the event which begins August 6. According to the Joplin Globe, many attendees stay in Carthage overnight, camping on or around the campus of the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix (CMC).
Residents around the CMC campus have been surveyed to determine if they will allow campers in their yards. According to the Joplin Globe, some attendees have formed long-time friendships with Carthage residents after camping in their yards each year.
Residents also enjoy the sights of the festival and eat in the food tents set up by Catholic churches and organizations to raise money.
Law enforcement officers who supplement Carthage police as security have also been scheduled.
“Friday and Saturday nights when the crowds are the largest, we’ll have 30 to 35 officers,” Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan said. “There’s a lot of other events where you could have 60,000 people, there’s no way 30 cops could handle it. It says a lot about the festival itself.”
The Carthage City Council is considering a resolution to accommodate the celebration by allowing the use of loudspeakers after midnight on Friday and Saturday, and a Saturday parade followed by fireworks.
Chief Dagnan said that CMC officials believe the economic downturn could discourage attendance, but he added that numbers could increase if families make the event their annual vacation.
“If you talk to places like [entertainment tourism center] Branson... their activity is up, because people are making shorter trips,” he remarked, according to the Joplin Globe. “That could happen with Marian Days, but when you have 60,000 people, 3,000 more or so aren’t that noticeable.”
While an entire neighborhood is blocked off for the event and many people are inconvenienced, Chief Dagnan said there are “very few complaints.”
“A few do get upset, but the majority look forward to it,” he reported.
The Marian Days festival began in the late 1970s after more than 185 Vietnamese refugees from Saigon were granted the use of the vacant Carthage seminary.
Last year’s celebrations were marred by tragedy when a charter bus of Vietnamese Catholics returning to Houston from Marian Days skidded off a freeway overpass in Texas. Over a dozen died and about forty were injured in the crash.