Senior Isaac Julius thought college professors were just people in suits who wouldn’t talk to anyone outside the classroom. Then he met Roger Festa, former chemistry professor at Truman State University and chapter adviser for Sigma Phi Epsilon Missouri Mu.
“He talked constantly and never shut up,” Julius said with a laugh. “It had been an hour, and maybe I got in two sentences. The perfect summation of Dr. Festa was his kindness and how much he talked.”
Julius, along with his fraternity brothers at Sig Ep, are hosting the first annual Festa’s Fall Festival to honor Festa, who died of oral cancer this past spring. For 27 years, Festa had served as chapter adviser for Sig Ep, one of the longest tenured Sig Ep chapter advisers in the whole country. Sig Ep wanted to honor their adviser in a way that would make Festa proud and raise money for a good cause.
“[Festa] was caring like a father,” said senior Nathan Verzeaux, Sig Ep president. “I think he was everyone’s father away from home. He was just ready to help us at any time to talk to us and guide us.”
When Festa’s health started declining, members of Sig Ep stepped up to help him. They shoveled snow off his car, bought him groceries, drove him to medical appointments and even arranged for brothers to visit him while he was treated in St. Louis.
“He was almost 50 years older than us, but he still had this friendship with us,” Verzeaux said. “We knew he would do the same thing for us.”
Sig Ep members decided as a group they wanted to host a philanthropic event. Junior Josh Russell said they were tossing around ideas during a meeting when they realized they wanted to host a fall festival coinciding with the completion of their new chapter house. He said they wanted to keep Festa’s legacy alive.
“We have all been instrumental in planning the event,” Russell said. “We really just wanted to make it an event that everyone can come to, whether they want to compete or just be there, have fun and do it for a good cause.”
Festa’s Fall Festival, a philanthropic event to raise money for the Oral Cancer Foundation, is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the new Sig Ep chapter house. Verzeaux said this event will include team competitions, pie throwing and a silent auction.
To compete as a team, people need to purchase tickets online. Russell said the Google sign-up sheet for teams can be found on Sig Ep’s Facebook page. Teams consist of four members, and tickets are $5 per person. A discount is applied if someone buys a ticket and a sweatshirt, which Russell said will also be sold at booths during the event. People can also show up at the event and pay to take part in individual activities.
The teams can compete in contests including bubble soccer, a three-legged race and tug-of-war. Teams earn points, and the team that scores the most points will earn 20 percent of all the proceeds donated to their charity of choice. Verzeaux said the winning team will also have their team name engraved on a plaque to be mounted inside the chapter house.
There will also be booths at the festival selling hot dogs and crepes along with hot beverages. Verzeaux said there are non-team activities such as Pie-a-Gep for a dollar and a Halloween costume contest. At the silent auction, Sig Ep members will offer services such as washing cars, mowing lawns and cooking dinners.
Julius considers this a social gathering that Festa would have loved because it will involve a lot of interaction. Festa would have kept people there until midnight trying to talk to everybody.
“I think that this festival really encapsulates Dr. Festa, except that there will be no Cardinals,” Julius said with a laugh. “He was a huge Cardinals baseball fan.”
Russell said he hopes people will come to this event and remember it as a fun time and will want to come back next year. He also hopes it will honor the memory of Festa in some way.
“Whether it’s through name or some personal connection with him, I hope that people will look back at this event and their relationship with Dr. Festa,” Russell said.
The event will start at 10 a.m. this Saturday.