WEST HARTFORD – Father John Pesce is passionate about peace.
So each year, he arranges for the Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center to be the site of his brainchild, an annual Children’s Peace Festival.
“Sowing Seeds for Peace,” the 12th annual Children’s Peace Festival, will take place from 1-5 p.m. June 21, rain or shine.
Father John, who has been a Passionist priest for 64 years, has just one motive:
“I do it just to show [children] that it’s possible to live in peace, that we all really can get along peacefully,” he said.
Designed for children ages 6 through 12 (although younger siblings are allowed), the festival is set up to be a day of fun with peace as the unifying theme. Admission is free.
“It’s been a wonderful thing, just wonderful,” said Cindy Moeckel of Ashford, who has helped organize and publicize the event from the beginning, when her own child was young.
“There’s a big box full of stuff – pinwheels for peace, chalk – that we have from year to year, and it’s fun,” she added.
Over the years, like-minded professionals and others have come to volunteer their time and talent with stories, dance, music, noncompetitive games and activities.
All incorporate the theme of peace into their activities.
Professional storyteller Sara DeBeer has been involved since the first festival. A featured artist with the Connecticut Storytelling Festival in New London, Hartford’s First Night and the Three Apples Festival in Harvard, Mass., she actively involves the children in her tales with sounds, songs and questions.
Ms. Moeckel said that Ms. DeBeer recruited her friend, Steve Long, to perform the Lion Dance, a Chinese-style blend of dancing and parading led by a friendly lion.
Folk musician Jill Friedman will engage the children in song again, and Lisa Muscanell will lead the children in dance and movement. Balloon play will be provided by Kelly Verrett.
Ms. Moeckel said that the afternoon begins with balloon play and large-group activities. Then Father John talks to the children for a short time about peace.
Other activities have included making models out of pasta and marshmallows, creating and decorating pinwheels, bubble play that involves filling a wading pool with bubble solution, face-painting and drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, to name a few.
At the close of the day, the children plant seeds after gathering around a Peace Pole outdoors for a ceremony and final reflection by Father John.
Father John said of his volunteers, “They’re all people who love other people and love to communicate. They all come for the day because they want to do it. I’m very lucky.”
Children must be accompanied by an adult. They are invited to arrive and leave at any time.