WINDSOR TOWNSHIP — The Light up the Night Festival drew thousands of people to the grounds of the largest statue of Our Lady of Guadeloupe in the world, according to Pat and Ed Heinz who built the memorial to Mary and created the Servants of Mary Center for Peace more than two decades ago.
"This is our big fundraiser for the year," Pat Heinz said of the family oriented event that normally draws about 6,000 people to the rural area for a day of fun, dancing and worship. "It's a family affair," she said.
Pat Heinz said Jungle Terry, live music, food, dancing and a large fireworks show highlight the festival held annually on the second Saturday of August. She said the festival provides a good portion of the budget necessary to keep the center open.
Heinz said the grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the souvenir shop is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
She said "word of mouth" and Facebook are the many ways festival information gets out to the public. Heinz said many people come to the memorial to Mary throughout the year. "They come from all over the United States and around the world," Hines said.
The couple originally bought the 120-year-old farm in 1987 with the hope of creating a Catholic youth camp, but extensive work and financial hardship derailed the dream, the couple stated in a two-page synopsis of their faith-led journey to create the center.
In 1990 the couple, and their nine children, were leaving for a new job in England when Patty buried a statue of St. Joseph and a St. Benedict medal on the property. They were able to maintain success in the nuclear energy field, but the family wished to return to the property.
The family said that in 1992 a "third party" helped the family buy the farm back prior to a sheriff's sale. Larry Wilson, one of their children, remembers starting to do repair work on the farm in 1992 and by 1995 the statue was completed by a Texas sculptor named Richard Hyslin after the family decided to honor Our Lady of Guadeloupe who is especially honored by those of Mexican heritage, the center history states.
"When we prayed to our Lord to return the farm to us, we promised him that we would use it for the greater glory of God. We have invested all of our income to improve the farm and to develop the Servants of Mary Center for Peace," Ed Heinz states.
Wilson returned for the festival and sold some of his craft beer he brews in a microbrewery located at a Harley-Davidson dealership where he works in the Youngstown area.
"This is my home," he said of the property even though he now lives in the Youngstown area.
Juan Martinez and his daughter Fatima spent time enjoying the entertainment, food and merchandise opportunities after driving to Ashtabula County from Columbus. "I like everything," he said.