For many residents on the east side of Columbus, the St. Catharine Summer FunFest symbolizes the start of summer.

For many residents on the east side of Columbus, the St. Catharine Summer FunFest symbolizes the start of summer.

Now in its 16th year, the festival kicks off next Thursday, June 5, with the parish's annual chicken dinner at 5 p.m., followed by rides, food and fun for the next two days at the church, 500 S. Gould Road.

FunFest "constantly improves and grows," festival chair Steve Zehala said. "It becomes a science."

Zehala, who has been working as co-chair and chair of the festival for the last four years, said he's especially excited this time around because it's the first FunFest with St. Catharine's new parish pastor, the Rev. Mike Lumpe.

"It's Father Lumpe's first year," Zehala said. "And we added an extra live band."

In addition to the second band, Zehala said another ticket booth is being added to shorten lines. He also has asked the ride supplier, Big "O" Amusements in Florida, to bring a few extra rides for children.

The old favorites, such as the giant slide and the Ferris wheel, are being brought as well, Zehala said.

"There are rides for kids all ages," he said. "Having more is better than not enough."

Almost Brothers, a band entirely comprised of parishioners, will perform Saturday evening. The band Next Exit will perform Friday night.

Zehala's wife, Amy, is in charge of the silent auction, one of the largest fundraising parts of FunFest.

Last year, the festival netted around $54,000 for the church's general fund, Steve Zehala said.

The auction will be held in the gymnasium of the St. Catharine School on Friday and Saturday. Winners will be announced around 9 p.m. Saturday.

Zehala said auction items in the past have included a week's vacation in Hilton Head, S.C., golf outings, a week at a castle in Ireland and homemade jewelry and clothing.

"Folks in the parish will save stuff up all year long for the auction," he said.

Lumpe said the silent auction also will include a few antiques from the rectory, including an old hallway bench and a chair.

He also is reviving a church tradition for this year's FunFest.

"We will hold Mass at 4 p.m. on Saturday under the tent," Lumpe said. "I guess it's a long-standing tradition."

The pastor said he thinks the festival is a great opportunity "to reach out to the broader community."

Lumpe moved to St. Catharine last July from the Christ the King parish on Livingston Avenue where he was raised.

He said he has attended the festival before -- just for fun.

"I came last year, because I knew I was going to be pastor here," he said.

Now as parish pastor, Lumpe is excited to welcome the entire community.

"We are happy to extend an invitation to everybody," he said.