Best friends Maranda Harper and Erin Rhoades laughed as their two 3-year-old girls Lilly and Juliet — best friends born four weeks apart — stuck their faces through the painted cardboard cut-outs Saturday at the Harvest Rome festival.

“This is so much fun,” Rhoades, of Rome, said as her daughter Juliet was transformed into a giant sunflower next to Lilly, who became a scarecrow. “This is the second time we’ve been here. It’s just a great fall event and great fellowship.”

It was Sherwood Forest Baptist Church Pastor Chris Hayes who helped bring the event to Etowah Park three years ago after seeing similar Christian carnivals in Chattanooga and Florida.

“This event is to bless the community,” said Hayes, who partnered with the free food giveaway program There’s Hope for the Hungry, as well as more than 100 corporate sponsors to make it a worthwhile event that has grown every year.

Hayes estimated that more than 4,000 people attended the event that offered hay rides, a petting zoo, an inflatable slide, food from vendors, Christian bands and more than 2,000 pounds of free, non-perishable food.

“It’s been crazy,” he said. “To date, we’ve fed over 1,600 families through There’s Hope for the Hungry just since June of last year.”

Every third Tuesday at Sherwood Forest Baptist Church at 1 Goodman Road in Rome, There’s Hope for the Hungry hands out boxes of food between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. as part of a program of the Atlanta Food Bank and a network of Georgia churches.

One of those churches is First Redeemer in Cumming. Colleen Hill, a member of that church, and her son 13-year-old son Corey were on hand Saturday to help distribute the boxes of food.

“We get pallets of food from the Atlanta Food Bank and then we pack the food into the smaller boxes to give out to the needy,” Hill explained. “Harvest Rome is not only a great opportunity to give out food, but also share our love of Christ in a fun, wholesome way.”

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