For the first time in memory, the success of the Holy Trinity Greek Festival won’t be contingent on the weather.
Plans are underway for the first-ever drive-thru Greek Festival, which kicks off Thursday in Wilmington. There won’t be any dancing or dining in, but festival organizers are preparing like it’s a normal festival, churning out delicious, traditional favorites for their multi-day event.
With a “skeleton crew of workers,” planners had to scale down this year’s menu, but most top picks will be on the list. “It was impossible to do the full slate,” said parish council president and event co-chair George Rassias.
Online ordering will open up June 18th, the first day of the festival.
Planning for this Covid-compliant event has been daunting to festival organizers, who typically welcome thousands to the grounds of their Broom Street church for a four-day event every year the first week in June.
This year the event will take place over three weekends – two food-only events back to back weekends in June, and a separate traditional festival, with seated dining, music, shopping and a kids area in September.
The dates of the Greek Festival this month are:
June 18, 19, 20 & 21 – 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm
June 25, 26, 27 & 28 – 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Event organizers are busy this week pitching the drive-up tent, installing cooking equipment and readying the Greek Festival app and website so that people can order meals online.
They will also designate a separate area for walk-up orders from people who want to enjoy a summer evening and linger over the Mediterranean aromas from the outdoor kitchen. Chip-reader, no-touch payment technology will also be available.
“The intent is for people to order ahead of time. But there are going to be people who don’t want to do that in this beautiful weather,” said lead organizer George Rassias.
Virtually all of the food, including 20,000 Dolmades, was prepared last week at Holy Trinity.
Rassias says his team of volunteers make the best food in the world, but they are not trained as professional restaurant employees. So operating under the Covid-related restrictions imposed by the state wasn’t an easy thing to do.
“We’re not a professional restaurant or event organizer. That’s why this was so daunting. Because every step of the way we had to be Covid compliant. I had maybe 60 people who wanted to come cook last week, but we really wanted to keep them to 12 people per shift to keep up the social distancing and keep conditions safe,” said Rassias.
About 30 parishioners came to the church throughout last week to bake thousands of pastries, and just as many turned out to prepare savory items like Moussaka, Spanikopita and Pastitsio.
The Greek Festival Gyros, served inside pita bread warmed up on a grill, are always a crowd favorite. “We do it as a beef and lamb mixture with tomatoes and onions and a with a special sauce that we’ve used for years for the Wilmington Festival,” said Rassias.
Many volunteers cooked in the kitchen while some rolled thousands of cookies by hand inside the gymnasium. Desserts this year will be offered as a variety sampler.
Prices will remain the same as last year’s. But the menu had to be scaled back in order for this drive-thru event to work.
The Menu for Week 1:
A la carte: Moussaka (an eggplant- or potato-based dish, often including ground meat), Pastitsio (Greek lasagna), Spanakopita, Tyropita (like Spanikopita but made with cheese only), Dolmades, and Gyros
Variety samplers: Pastitsio sampler, Moussaka sampler, Dessert sampler with Kataifi, Baklava, almond cookie, Melomakarono, Portokalopita, and two Koulourakia.
Greek Wine (red or white)
Next week it is very possible that they will have different menu items, different desserts, etc.
In order to manage the food distribution, people will only be able to order meals the same day. Rassias says his volunteers can’t manage a multi-day ordering system that would be in place in a regular restaurant. “The incident rate goes way down if we manage it day-to-day,” he said.
“The biggest issue is how quickly we can handle the rush of people that come to the church — logistically managing a large flow of orders at one time. The key issue is handing it [the meals] to people in a COVID environment,” said Rassias.
Just how many people do they expect to feed at this year’s event?
“We’ve never ever done this before. That’s really the great unknown. That’s why having a second week — that gives us a chance to take a breath and see what works well the first week,” said Rassias.
Holy Trinity Greek Church is located at 808 N. Broom Street in Wilmington.