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The St. Anthony’s fair parking fundraiser raked in nearly $13,000 for various church causes, making it the biggest fundraiser of the year.

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church/Wikimedia

Charging $3 per car, church volunteers directed cars into open parking spots at the Catholic cemetery next to the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds. The fundraiser has been around for years, beginning in 1967.

“St. Anthony began supervised parking in the unused portion of our cemetery facing M-99 around 1967. Prior to the supervised parking, some fairgoers were parking in the cemetery, sometimes parking on graves and often causing damage to the grounds,” a statement from St. Anthony’s said.

Closing the cemetery gates did not eliminate the problem as there were other gates to this private cemetery.  According to the statement, the St. Anthony Men’s club experimented with supervised parking about 1967. They parked several hundred vehicles that year.

Fair parking has continued in one form or another since the church began. Tom Osbourne, co-chairman of the Fair Parking Fundraiser and treasurer of the cemetery, has been involved with the fundraiser for upward of 35 years. The $12,845.75 brought in this year will be distributed much like it has in previous years, he said.

“Last year, it was 50 percent to the Men’s Club, 20 percent  to St. Anthony’s, 30 percent to the cemetery,” Osbourne said. “In the last two years, we’ve put in about 300-feet of wrought iron fence in the cemetery.”

This year, the cemetery is keeping 75 percent of it and the Men’s Club is getting 25 percent.

Just so we have some money to build some more wrought iron fence,” Osbourne said.

Osbourne said he can remember a time when the church had nearly 160 volunteers signed up to help with fair parking. It has dropped significantly in the past few years, with an estimated 100 to 120 volunteers. About 20 percent of those volunteers are Hillsdale students, he said.

“We did two official nights of fair parking. I’d say we had a total of 15 students participate,” said junior and Catholic Society President, Sammy Roberts. “However, several students signed up for a block of their own accord. I know for a fact that Friday, several students just went at their own initiative and took a block when the parish needed some extra hands.”

Besides being a service to the parish, Roberts said that it’s a great way to get involved at St. Anthony’s.

“It’s a nice way to get to know the parishioners. One of the things I’m trying to emphasize this year is recognizing that St. Anthony’s is our home parish. Students know you’re here nine out of the 12 months of the year, so this is more of your home parish than the one in your home state,” Roberts said. “So get involved. Do stuff like this.”