While other summer festivals have been canceled this year, the 45th annual Holy Trinity Greek Festival is staying alive this summer thanks to volunteers who say the event’s mission and bond with the community were too important to give up.
Organizers have pivoted to a two-pronged approach – offering a food-focused event next month followed by a full festival in September.
Beginning Thursday, June 18th, many of the event’s culinary mainstays will be available via drive-through pick up at the Broom Street church. That service will continue from 3 pm to 9 pm June 19th, 20th and 21st.
Pulling this off required overcoming multiple hurdles, including city approvals, the evolving nature of the pandemic, and concerns about the health of longtime parishioners who are at the core of the event’s success.
Organizers are still working out which items will be on the “limited menu.” Some items are too labor intensive to prepare for take-out. And like area restaurants, Greek Festival organizers are wrestling with food availability.
“We’re trying to get some of those logistics ironed out now, and the supply lines are a little discombobulated right now, as you can imagine, for especially for specialty foods and specialty ingredients,” said parish council president and event co-chair George Rassias.
Many of the traditional dining room offerings will be available for purchase, including Gyros, Pastitsio (Greek lasagna), Moussaka, Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), Spanakopita and three or four Greek pastries.
Lamb shanks, souvlaki and calamari likely won’t make it into the mix, as those items are typically offered at specific outdoor booths.
The plan is to continue the food operation a second weekend, from Thursday, June 25th through Sunday, June 28th.
Organizers are setting up an online platform for ordering, which will soon be available on the Holy Trinity website. But they will also accommodate walk ups for the many neighbors who can walk to the church. Chip-reader, no-touch payment technology will also be available.
Much more than a kick-off to the summer festival season, Rassias says the Holy Trinity Greek Festival is woven into the fabric of the greater community.
“It’s odd to come around to the spring and not be doing all that prep work and not having all those folks going down to the church, and not working up in anticipation of this great event, where we get to share in our culture and our faith and things that we do with the with the Delaware Valley region,” he said.
While the event relies on a committee made up of “accomplished, seasoned, professional restauranteurs,” much of the food offered at the Holy Trinity Greek festival is made right at the church by hundreds of volunteers.
Rassias says efforts to maintain the health of church members was paramount, as leaders developed a plan to offer as scaled back version of the event next month.
“So, we make a lot of the food there. And although we do employ some folks, typically during a large festival to help us out a little bit, primarily we are volunteer-based both in food prep, and in in in the actual festival sale and presentation. A lot of folks in the parish are in the vulnerable category. So, we have to be careful with that,” he said.
He added that it’s not easy to assemble the mechanics of an entirely new volunteer-based event. “Because of the pandemic, folks have other things on their minds right now that they’re dealing with and stressors in their lives. It’s really hard to impose upon them,” said Rassias.
Rassias says the church council is actively planning a full Greek Festival for the fall, which, if public guidelines allow for large gatherings to take place, would run Sunday, September 6th through Friday, the 11th.
“It was critically important to us that we did whatever we could to bring some form of the festival to the community this year. This event pays for all of our ministries.”