Monastery holds Fall Festival and Health Fair

From hayrides and face painting to free health screenings and classic cars, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit’s Annual Fall Festival and Health Fair offers a day of fun and activities for people of all ages.

This will be the third year the monastery has hosted the festival and the second year it has sponsored a health fair. The festival will be held Saturday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the grounds of the historic monastery, located at 2625 Highway 212 in Conyers. The health fair will be held in conjunction with the festival, with the hours of the health fair being 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Last year was a trial,” said the monastery’s Brother Callistus Crichlow. “It was such a successful event for the pubic throughout the surrounding area. We had more than 80 medical professionals contribute to that. It was just an overwhelming event and an awesome experience for everybody.”

Callistus said the monastery is expecting a crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 people attend this year and he said he particularly wants to thank Rockdale Medical Center for offering complete blood chemistry work for the health event.

In collaboration with a team of medical professionals, the monastery will offer a range of free medical screenings at its health fair. Doctors, nurses, medical technicians and volunteer staff will all be on hand to do screenings beginning at 11 a.m.

Rockdale Medical Center is joining the monastery with its outreach initiative to offer blood screening that covers a number of areas. Those who are 18 years of age and older may participate in this health fair, regardless of their income level. There will be no charge for the medical screenings.

Screenings available that Saturday include vision, dental/oral, dermatologist, body mass index (BMI), bone health/density, foot screenings, depression, blood pressure, blood work, prostate/PSA (men only), blood chemistry, lipid panel, spinal screening and consultation with medical professionals for those who have questions. There will also be a team of massage therapists available that day.

In addition to there being no charge for the medical screenings, admission to the festival as well as parking is also free. Some fees may apply for certain children’s activities. Pets are prohibited.

While the health fair is a big event in itself, the Monastery’s Fall Festival is also filled with fun and activities. Highlights this year are new activities for children, arts and crafts, vendors and a petting zoo with exotic and farm animals. Concessions will offer many choices, including hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as Caribbean, Asian and Mexican foods.

Family events include hay rides, pony rides, parrots and other wildlife animals from AWARE Wildlife Center, face art and arts and crafts.

A display of classic cars will be a new feature at the festival this year. In addition, a marketplace featuring vendors of Abbey Store will offer samples of their products and the organic farm will have produce to taste and sample.

Festival-goers will also be able to try monk-crafted food products from the monastery, such as fruitcake, fudge and biscotti. Tours of the Gothic Abbey Church will be available and guests will learn about the history of monasticism in the Monastic Heritage Center, which features an interactive museum, the Abbey Gift Shop, Bonsai Garden and the cafe. Bonsai pottery sales will be available at Memorial Plaza and the Prayer Walk.

In what it is calling the Monastery Book Bonanza, the monastery will be selling hundreds of surplus books at the festival, many of which are duplicates or not needed in its library and some include unusual out-of-print titles and hard-to-find volumes and spiritual classics. Payment should be made by cash or check only and the books are priced at $1 or for a free-will offering.

Those attending the festival will also be able to explore the Monastery Trailhead, which is part of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area (AMHA). The trailhead is the beginning of the completed scenic section of the AMHA path that starts the monastery entrance.

Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Contact her at bethslaughtersexton@gmail.com.