The Rev. Andrew George, the long-serving pastor at Church of the Annunciation, spent much of summer answering telephone calls and responding to emails regarding the popular Cranston Greek Festival – which, like countless events throughout the state, was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Thus, as Father George noted: “Early September has come and gone and our traditional festival which followed the Labor Day weekend was not held due to coronavirus restrictions and social distancing rules.”
Even many proud parishioners at the Greek Orthodox Church were constantly asked if there would be a Cranston Greek Festival, which annually attracts upwards of 35,000 people over a three-day stretch.
So, as time moved on, it became clear to Father George “that the greater Rhode Island community really desired the festival. However, with safety and health in mind and respecting the state mandated guidelines for public gatherings, there was no way to hold it due to the magnitude of people who attend the festival and work it as well.”
Enter the likes of Evan Andrikos, Theofanis Markos, Kevin Phelan and other parish officials, whose creative concept, entitled the “Cranston Greek Fest Express,” will offer a taste of Greece to go.
That will happen on Friday, Oct. 2, and continue through Sunday, Oct. 4, when people who have enjoyed such festival staples as roast lamb and pastitsio dinners, pork souvlaki and famous gyros as well as Annunciation’s mouth-watering pastries will be able to order take-out online and schedule a pick-up time.
The Cranston Greek Fest Express will have what Father George described as a “limited menu of the most popular food and pastry items.” Patrons, Andrikos explained, will visit an online link that “we will announce soon” to place their order, and they will “then be assigned a pick-up time.”
There will not be any walk-in orders – only those pre-orders. That system, parish officials said, will restrict movement on the church grounds as well as along Oaklawn Avenue and will keep participants safe.
“We will also be putting up road signs as we do for the festival,” said Markos, who has long chaired the Greek Festival. “We’re hoping that will be back next year and we are also asking people to please wear their masks when picking up their orders so we can keep everyone safe.”
To-go dinners will range in price from $14 to $17 and will come with a Greek salad, potato or rice pilaf and dinner roll. The famous Gyro, an iconic festival favorite, will be priced at $10 each. And if people don’t want a dinner, there will be a la carte orders as well spanakopita, tyropita and dolmades.
As Markos, who like other volunteers has done everything from cook food to wash dishes in past years, offered: “A taste of Greece would not be complete with our selection of famous homemade Greek pastries. We’ll have a Greek Pastry Platter and famous cookies like the koulourakia, a butter cookie that goes well with coffee and is always a sell-out.”
Andrikos, who Father George said is a “key parishioner and leading the charge” on the Fest Express push, invited members of the community to visit greekfestexpress.com for a preview of the menu and more information.