While many local festivals have been postponed or cancelled in light of COVID-19, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church will hold its annual Wilmington Greek Festival the weekend of Oct. 23-25, modifying the event as a drive-thru only festival.
St. Nicholas was supposed to have celebrated its 28th annual Greek Festival in May, but decided to postpone given social distancing guidelines.
But having a drive-thru component is not entirely new to the festival – about five years ago, festival chairman Basile Katsikis came up with the idea of implementing a drive-thru as an option for the elderly, the handicapped and those who simply wanted a quick, convenient meal.
Katsikis also proposed that a drive-thru could be a saving grace should inclement weather arise.
Despite some initial reservations on the part of fellow organizers, Katsikis said the drive-thru has been a very successful component of the festival ever since. And now it has made it easy for organizers to implement a drive-thru-only model that will allow the festival to take place safely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
All festival workers will be temperature-checked at the start of each shift, and everyone will be required to wear a hat or hair net, an apron, a mask and gloves. All food will be packed in individual Styrofoam to-go containers.
“We may have to slow things down just a bit this year because safety is of course the top priority,” Basile Katsikis said. “We’re fortunate that many of our volunteers have worked the festival for years and are well versed in how things run, making it easier for us to adapt to the drive-thru only model and offer meals that are convenient, safe and delicious.”
Katsikis, who now serves as the festival’s promotional director, said he considers the Greek Festival to be the “grandfather of all ethnic festivals in Southeastern North Carolina.”
And this is not the first time the festival has had to overcome an adverse situation. In 1996, Hurricane Fran descended upon the North Carolina coast, causing widespread destruction and knocking out power to most of the Port City – on the same weekend as the festival, which was originally held in September.
Fortunately, St. Nicholas had several generators on site and was able to maintain power. Members of the congregation and festival organizers quickly decided that they needed to feed the community with the food they had on hand, selling items at cost to provide meals to those in need.
“We were one of the only places in town where people could come for food,” Katsikis said.
Despite the fact that this year’s event will be drive-thru only, it will still feature all the classic Greek specialties the festival is known for: Mousaka, Pastitsio, Dolmathes, Gyros
and sampler platters, as well as pastry platters.
While organizers regret that the festival will not include the music, dancing and fellowship of previous years, they are pleased to be able to have come up with an alternative plan and to partner with the Good Shepherd Center and First Fruit Ministries as beneficiaries.
“So much has been cancelled this year, and we’re just happy to do something to help keep people’s spirits up,” Katsikis said.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is located at 608 S. College Road, across from UNCW. Festival times are Friday, Oct. 23 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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