St. Clair Shores residents Angela Nichols and Angela Angelidis serve desserts at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and Cultural Center’s 2019 GreekFest. This year, the center is holding two MiniFests with carryout food in May and August due to COVID-19.

St. Clair Shores residents Angela Nichols and Angela Angelidis serve desserts at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and Cultural Center’s 2019 GreekFest. This year, the center is holding two MiniFests with carryout food in May and August due to COVID-19.

File photo by Donna Agusti


Churches offer tastes of festival favorites

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 5, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Local festivals usually include entertainment, rides, a beer tent and more, but sometimes the best part of a local event is the food.

That’s why, as crowds continue to be discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic, local churches are pivoting from hosting traditional festivals where visitors could be packed shoulder-to-shoulder to drive-thru and carryout events where visitors can at least get a taste of the celebration.

Dina Ciaffone, business manager at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 21620 Greater Mack Ave., and a co-chair of the church’s annual festival, said the organization was unable to hold its festival last May and relied solely upon its raffle for fundraising in 2020. Typically, the St. Joan of Arc festival draws thousands for its midway rides and games, children’s games and activities, a beer tent, carnival food, and more.

In the fall of 2020, the carnival company that usually provided the games, rides and carnival food for the event approached the church about having a small food fest. It was successful and popular with visitors, so this year, in addition to hosting the annual raffle, St. Joan of Arc is hosting another food fest with five carnival food trucks and five local food trucks on its traditional festival weekend, May 21-23.

“We’ve had a significant hit to the revenue that we are taking in on all (fronts),” she said. “Our major fundraisers have all been canceled, including our school’s gala.”

The raffle and the food truck rally are ways they are trying to bridge the gap.

“Churches across the country are experiencing what we experienced this year, as well,” she said.

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and Cultural Center, 21800 Marter Road, is doing something similar.

“The big GreekFest, as we know it, would be drawing thousands of people, and at this point, it’s not realistic,” said Joan De Ronne of Assumption.

GreekFest draws a huge crowd from across metro Detroit each August. The 2020 event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but supporters were still asking, “What about the food?”

So Assumption held a smaller, food-only, carryout only, festival in August 2020. This year, they’ve scheduled two MiniFests: one for spring and one this summer.

Assumption Cultural Center’s first Greek MiniFest will be held May 28-31. During the holiday weekend, curbside carryout and delivery of some of the most popular food will be available from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Sponsored by Estia Greek Street Food in Grosse Pointe Woods, visitors will be able to purchase favorites like lamb shank, chicken kabob, spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves, gyro, pastitsio, saganaki, baklava and rice pudding.

“It’s the same good food,” De Ronne said. “This is all for everyone’s well-being for this time of year.”

She said they had patrons come from near and far for the 2020 MiniFest, as many were looking for different takeout options. The MiniFest, she said, offers the opportunity to have “a little taste of Greece and do it safely.”

At St. Joan of Arc, food trucks will include barbecue, waffles, Greek food, carnival favorites and more. The trucks will be open from noon to 9 p.m. May 21 and 22, and from noon to about 6 p.m. May 23.

“We like to incorporate the carnival people. They are pros at this,” Ciaffone said. “They always have their act together ... and the elephant ears, of course, which is the most important.”

Which food trucks are parked at the church will vary throughout the weekend.

“It becomes, then, a destination, so if you come in Friday, you don’t have to worry about eating the same food Saturday and Sunday, as well. We’ll have 10 trucks out on a daily basis,” she said.

Visitors will be asked to get their food to-go, as there will be no tent or gathering space in the parking lot off of Greater Mack Avenue where the trucks will be parked. Ciaffone said they would be posting which trucks would be out at which times on the parish website, sjascs.org, and in the parish bulletin.

St. Joan of Arc is also hosting its annual raffle. Tickets are available at the parish center or by visiting tickets.stjoan.church.

Likewise, Assumption is still holding its grand raffle, with cash prizes, in an effort to bolster the funds raised to support the center, the church and school. De Ronne said MiniFest chairmen Tom Thomas, George Dallas and Bob De Waele felt it was important that the event proceed, even in a scaled-down fashion.

“It’s for the community and for our programs, as well,” De Ronne said. “Everybody needs ... in these times, just a little something different. Being a holiday weekend, as well, it’s just a time that people want to celebrate and can’t fully, so at least they can enjoy this.”

Assumption will hold a Summer MiniFest Aug. 19-22, and De Ronne said they hope to bring back the full GreekFest, with music, dancing, entertainment, shopping and more, in 2022.

Call (586) 596-6326 or (586) 779-8071 to place an order. The menu is available at www.assumptionfestival.com. Raffle tickets cost $10 each and are also available online or by calling (586) 779-6111.

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