Tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics flocked to the small southwest Missouri town of Carthage for a four-day festival to celebrate the Virgin Mary. Vietnamese refugees credit the Catholic icon for their protection and rescue from Vietnam as they fled the country after the Vietnam War.

The Marian Days celebration began in 1978 with only a few hundred people. It takes place every year on the 28-acre campus of the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix, a Vietnamese order of priests and brothers that has a provincial house in Carthage. The order came from Vietnam in 1975 just after the end of the Asian conflict.

Each year attendance increases with the most recent festival, which took place last weekend, besieging the town with more than 70,000 travelers from all over the country – hence the term “invasion.” Carthage‚Äôs population on any other weekend is just more than 12,000.

The pilgrims camp out on the lawn of the seminary – like a veritable “Godstock” – and book hotels and motels to capacity throughout the region. Read more here.