Tom Campo, 82, is no stranger to the thrill of amusement park rides. In fact, he says, he has known a thrill much more intense than those produced by the Ferris wheel or the Tornado -- he spent six years working as a test pilot in the Air Force.
But for the past 55 years, the husband, father of six, grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of three has spent his time working as a parishioner for the St. Philip and James Church in St. James. The Stony Brook resident is now a key figure in the planning of the annual St. Philip and James Church Festival -- a festival that gives him the opportunity to put names to familiar faces, he said.
“It’s so great to have the -- just the social get-togethers with everybody,” he said. He estimates that about half of the fair’s hundreds of attendees are members of the church’s parish.
The festival, which took place Friday through Sunday, completed its 15th consecutive year.
Coordinators said that the festival is the parish school and church’s biggest fundraiser of the year, along with an annual car raffle.
“It’s a parish festival,” said David Werner, 47, of St. James, who is also on the planning committee. He said that the festival provides a safe environment for kids who might otherwise congregate in malls or at festivals without security.
St. James resident Anna Gambino, 33, came to the festival this year with her daughters, Ava Grace, 6, and Maria, 3. The three have attended in past years, as well.
“It’s a great night out for the kids,” Gambino said. “It’s great for the community.”
Carol Terlaga, 69, of Nesconset, read about the festival in the newspaper and decided to attend with her grandsons, Roy, 7, and Ryan, 5.
“I love it, they love it,” Terlaga said, while watching her grandsons slide down the “Flying Carpet” ride. “It was good because you pay one price, they can go on all the rides.”
Selden resident Gian Fanelli, 22, works for Newton Shows, the company hired to bring games and rides to the event. Having traveled the festival circuit, Fanelli stood in a carnival game booth and said that the St. Philip and James festival was “one of the better ones.”
“Good group of people,” he said. “Everybody’s happy, even when they lose, which is nice.”
Campo shared a similar sentiment.
“Everybody works with a smile in this place,” he said...smiling.
Above: Smithtown resident Samantha Gleason, 2 1/2, rides the carousel with her father, Brian Gleason, 44, at the St. Philip and James Church Festival in St. James. (July 8, 2012)