Back in April, when Catonsville's Jamie Voss first mentioned the idea for an end-of-summer outdoor celebration at the Caton Tavern to raise money to help a neighbor and her school, she hoped the response would be positive.
The 2009 Catonsville High graduate and bartender at the tavern on Edmondson Avenue wanted to do something to rally the community, but she didn't anticipate that the first Caton Fest would become a hit.
"It's gotten a lot bigger than I expected," acknowledged Voss, who had the support of owner Tom Antoniou. "It's really cool the way it has kind of progressed just from that little idea."
Money raised at the Caton Fest will go toward renovations to Comet Park at Catonsville High School and the Paul Lauer Myeloma Foundation. Each will get 50 percent from the event that will be held in the parking lot behind the restaurant from 3 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29.
"I'm really excited about it," Voss said. "When we first started, I didn't know how big it was going to get and I was hoping we could make maybe $1,000 for each charity."
Now, she's thinking that number could be even bigger, and "that makes me really happy."
Voss is expecting the tavern's regular customers plus other residents from the Catonsville community to attend. She also has heard from people from the Eastern Shore and out of state.
The attractions will include a beer tent, dunk tank, corn hole tournament, silent auction, 50/50 and basket raffles and live music throughout the day and night.
Rick Sambuco and John Lancaster will play from 3 to 5 p.m. The Catonsville-based Muleman Band will play from 5 to 9, and Brian Jamison and his band will close out the evening from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., when the music will move inside.
"It's going to be a little crazy," Voss said. "I'm thinking 500 probably, and it might be more than that ... we have all hands on deck. Everybody who works here is working that day."
The charities are the main draw for the festival at Caton Tavern, which was established in 1972. "From what I've heard from all the regulars, nothing like this has ever been done here," Voss said.
Giving back to community
Voss, whose twin sisters, Catherine and Jessica, also graduated from Catonsville High (2007), wanted to do something for her school.
"A lot of our customers have kids that go to Catonsville, so I wanted give back a little bit," Voss said.
She thought the Comet Park Stadium Renovation Project would be a natural fit for this weekend's event because of the start of the fall sports season..
The Paul Lauer Myeloma Foundation drew her interest after talking with Caton Tavern bartender Jenny Miller, and her husband, Ken.
"She actually spearheaded the whole thing," Ken Miller said. "The three of us were at dinner one night, and we were talking about our friend Paul Lauer, who I've known for 30 years. So we said, 'Why don't we include Paul in this, being he's up against the clock here with his cancer?'"
Lauer, 40, a Catonsville native, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma on Feb. 14, 2008 while he was living in Ocean City and working at the Carousel Hotel as an executive chef. He moved back to Catonsville after the diagnosis.
"I've been through three stem-cell transplants, eight chemo[therapy] trials and three bouts of radiation," said Lauer, who started a fourth round of radiation on Aug. 20. "It's basically for pain management and to get rid of the tumor in my back and in my spine. It could very much buy me two or three months."
Lauer said he's been told the tumor is the size of a baseball.
"I had seven fractures in my spine initially, and they never really healed all the way," he said. "I have constant back pain, and I lost my left eye."
He said he and his wife, Lauren, have been making the most of their time together.
"Me and my wife have taken a lot of trips," said Lauer, citing vacations to the Outer Banks (N.C.), Jamaica and St. Thomas.
A huge Orioles fan, he also took at trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and recently returned from a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
"I have a hard time sitting still, especially after you are told that you don't have much time left. You want to savor every moment," said Lauer, who visited Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game in 2014.
"He is one of the strongest-willed people I've ever known," said Ken Miller, who met him when both were Cub Scouts. "His back is against the wall, and he still has the best attitude of anybody I've ever seen."
Lauer, who has organized several fundraisers that have raised an estimated $6,000 over the past six years, was invited to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles game against the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 23.
Before he started his latest bout of radiation treatments, he talked about throwing out that first pitch.
"I'm definitely excited, but it takes a lot for me to get nervous," Lauer said.
The uncertainty is the toughest part of his fight with cancer, he said.
"It's tough, not knowing how much time you have left, and really wanting to spend more and more time with other people," Lauer said.
Another thing that has taken its toll is the cost of all the medical bills. In late June, he started a gofundme account which has raised 12,975 in donations.
Lauer, the youngest of nine children, was surprised to hear how interest in the Caton Fest is growing.
"Absolutely," he said. "I have a lot of friends and family that always want to help. They always ask me what they can do, and I don't always know what to say. A lot of times people like doing stuff like this, and I love having fundraisers."
Fundraising also been the focus of Beth Reymann since she started spearheading the Comet Park Stadium Renovation Project after the turf field was installed in 2008.
The first phase was to raise funds for a new scoreboard. New ticket booths were purchased for both entrances of the stadium and then a new concession stand with restrooms was built in the summer of 2013.
The scoreboard, which cost slightly more than $40,000, was purchased by sponsors and the Catonsville Booster Club and the ticket booths were purchased by the booster club.
After completion of the concession stand, the group received a matching funds grant from the state of Maryland for $60,000. The booster club raised and donated the other $140,000.
Several local businesses and contractors worked to build the concession stand with the final cost being around $200,000.
The final phase of the renovation is to install new bleachers.
The $250,000 cost to purchase the bleachers was raised through community support and another matching funds grant from the state for $125,000.
Extra expenses will include clearing the site, concrete work, electrical work for the press box and plumbing work for an existing water line.
They also need to buy the actual seat plaques once the bleachers are installed for all of the dedications that have already been bought.
Although her children have graduated and Reymann has passed the title of Comet Booster Club president to Jennifer Stevens, she is overseeing completion of the stadium renovations.
"We are in the home stretch of it in that we are waiting for approval from the board of education," Reymann said.
Once they get approval, Reymann expects construction on the bleachers and a press box to begin after the fall sports seasons ends.
"My goal is to have them installed after the fall season is over as long as the weather cooperates," said Reymann, noting the handicap-accessible bleachers will hold nearly 1,000 fans; the old ones seated about 420.
She also hopes fans can look at a brighter scoreboard.
"My goal when this is all said and done and the final thing for me is the scoreboard panels because they have been up for eight years and they are faded," she said. "Replace the panels and then it would look all new again."
To donate to the Paul Lauer Multiple Myeloma Fund go to http://e.gofund.me/xzvr2k.