By Meg Barone

Although the calendar Friday showed that a week of summer still remained, autumn was clearly in the cool, clear air. But as the temperature dropped spirits soared at Our Lady of the Assumption Church where hundreds of people turned out for the opening night of its 19th annual SeptemberFest.

"It's a good, family event," said Mark Bentley of Fairfield, who attended the fest with his wife Ginny Bentley and sons George, 5, and William, 4.

"It's like a block party," Ginny Bentley said.

Co-Chairman Dave Carbinella said the festival attracts several thousand people each year to ride amusement rides, play games, eat fair fare, and purchase a variety of items at its giant tag sale. The tag sale, or White Elephant sale, was as much a draw as was the Cobra roller coaster and the Ferris wheel.

Twenty minutes before the official start time of 6 p.m. Friday for the three-day Assumption parish celebration, which concludes on Sunday, lines had already formed in front of the tents that house the White Elephant sale. Shelves were chock full of vases, tapes and CDs, board games, toys, religious items and housewares.

"What a find. Are you excited?," Allison Barmash of Fairfield asked her 3-year-old son William after he paid $1 for a bag of plastic Disney characters. "He is a big Lion King fan and there are a lot of Lion King figures in here. As soon as he saw Simba he was done. He knew what he wanted," Barmash said.

"I love tag sales. I find a lot of Vera Bradley here cheap, and I got an iPod case for a dollar. I haven't missed this in the last ten years," said Nicole Stancarone of Fairfield, who walked to the festival with her friend Vanessa Griffin, also of Fairfield.

Donna Purciello of Bridgeport said she's been coming to SeptemberFest every year for years. "I like the tag sale, I like the food and you get to see old friends," Purciello said. "It's great. They do a good job, a beautiful job," she said.

Not everyone was a repeat customer. Kylie Kuroghlian, 4, of Trumbull, was attending her first SeptemberFest. In fact, it was her first-ever fair. Her parents, Richard and Suzanne Kuroghlian, surprised Kylie by taking her to the opening Friday, where she won two stuffed animals at one of the midway games.

Jackie Rosa of Bridgeport brought her daughter Divinity, 4. "My daughter gets to have a night out and play games and gets to enjoy cotton candy and candy apples; all the yummy stuff. Her eyes were gleaming," Rosa said.

"It's right around the corner, it's a great fair, and it all goes for the church," said Nicole Feagin of Fairfield, who joined her son Patrick Feagin, 6, on the Ferris wheel and Dumbo the Elephant ride.

Carbinella said SeptemberFest is the parish's largest annual fundraiser and brings in "way over $50,000 each year, weather permitting. Because it does so well, Fr. (Barry) Fury never has to ask for a dime from the altar, and it unites so many parishioners."