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ZephyrFest – Somewhere Between Earth and Heaven

May 26, 2013

Memorial Day weekend is the time when, for many years starting around 12 years ago, I would organize my annual ZephyrFest picnic for family and friends.

When I was a kid we would look forward to an annual picnic that my mom and dad’s friends would organize for friends and family. There would be games for the kids, food, and lots to do and explore around the picnic grounds. It was great fun for us kids and a treasured and pristine memory of my childhood.

As I was growing up, I would hear of picnics that my mom would go to as a kid to her uncle’s place at Shady Rest. She would reminisce fondly of those times in her childhood that were devoted to family and fun, creating treasured memories.

When my oldest kids were around 5 or 6 years old, I remembered back to my childhood and the picnics we would have as a kid, and wanted my kids to have similar warm memories of picnic fun with family and friends on gorgeous days of bliss in the sun.

In those thoughts, ZephyrFest was conceived.

I decided to plan a picnic for family and friends to come to near our home, Zephyrgarten, as we called it (meaning: Garden of the West Wind), and called the event ZephyrFest.

I spent months preparing for ZephyrFest, reserving the picnic grounds for Memorial Day weekend, sending out invites, planning fun games for the kids, buying prizes for the games, and making decorations for the event – a blue and green color scheme to match the blue sky and green landscape spring picnic feel of the event.

I also added a tag line into the logo for ZephyrFest – “Somewhere Between Earth and Heaven” – a verbal reminder of the grounds we would be roaming between the green grass of earth and the blue skies of heaven, as well as the time we would be celebrating between our terrestrial time here on earth and our eternal time in heaven.

ZephyrFest was all that.

I had lots of help decorating with blue and green table cloths, ZephyrFest signs and stickers, and hanging prizes from “the prize tree” – a low branched tree near the picnic pavilion where I would hang the prizes for the kid games with blue and green ribbon.

Guest would arrive and the kids would start scoping out which prizes they might want to select when they got a chance. There were squirt guns, and bubbles, and balls, and lots of fun things for the kids to win.

I would have an opening ceremony to ZephyrFest including a prayer, pledge of allegiance and moments of silence to honor our our country’s living veterans and fallen soldiers who fought for and protected our country. I wanted my kids, and any others who attended ZephyrFest to have a strong sense of the importance of God and country in our lives and the blessings that we enjoyed that day.

The first ZephyrFest included live music from my brother-in-law’s Fishin’ Buddies band, and we had other music playing in the background at other ones.

The fun part of ZephyrFest was the games. I would plan out for months the details of the games to make them fun and memorable. There would be races, and games of skill for various age groups so that everyone had a chance to compete and win a prize off the prize tree. One year we had a Sock Throw Shooting Gallery where the kids threw rolled up socks at live human adult targets, with a Sock Fight War between the kids to follow, which was lots of fun. We also had a Baby Race where the kids were the adults and the adults were the babies and the kids would feed their adult partner baby food (applesauce), then change their diaper (a towel), then get them dressed for the day before they ran them across the finish line.

We also had crude piñatas so the kids could get a chance to take their swings and get some candy to take home with them.

My favorite memory was that my grandmother, Gladys DiGuido, was at the first couple ZephyrFests, and that in the first one we were climbing in the low branches of the prize tree and I called out to her to come climb the tree with us and she said she’d be right there. I thought she was kidding because she was around 88 years old at the time. I told her I didn’t think she would climb the tree, and she said ‘that wouldn’t be any fun’, so came over to the tree and I helped her up there with us, and then we got some pictures with the kids and my grandmother in the tree. She was always fun and celebrated life well with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


My son, Cody, me and my grandmother up in the ZephyrFest prize tree


ZephyrFest was an annual Memorial Day event for about 5 subsequent years including a few in Aurora, IL, and then a couple more at Memorial Park in Midlothian, IL when we moved.

Now ZephyrFest has faded into history and the memories of those who attended them many years ago.

I just hope they were successful in creating warm and happy moments for the long term memories of my children and all who attended, like the picnics of yore did for me and my mom.

Who knows..,maybe there will even be a ZephyrFest Renaissance at some time in the future.

For those of you who were there, why not leave a comment sharing some of your favorite memories of ZephyrFest?

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