June 24, 2010
GET THE PARTY STARTED: The Frank Castle band played part of the afternoon away, followed by the band Tribeca, and interspersed with John Nardolillo as DJ.
It was under perfectly sunny skies on Saturday that St. Mark’s Parish in Garden City held their second annual Celebration of Family festival. The festival was held on the grounds of the former Cranston Johnston Catholic Regional School, which is adjacent to St. Mark’s.
Food vendors, game vendors and musicians provided the entertainment and refreshments for the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. There was also an entire area run by parish volunteers with games and crafts for kids, as well as a raffle area for the children.
Admission to the event was free, but once inside, guests were welcome to purchase “festivos,” which they could then use instead of money to participate in events or purchase food and drinks, according to Elizabeth Reis, one of the parish volunteers.
The goal of the event was not to fundraise, but rather to bring the community together.
“Last year I asked Father why we didn’t have a parish festival, and he said, ‘Okay, but you will be the chair,’” recalled chairperson Lori Marsella-Levine.
Reverend Anthony Verdelotti then assigned Marsella-Levine a co-chair, fellow parishioner, Doreen Archetto.
“I’d been in the parish for 17 years when we started this last year, and I didn’t know anyone then,” said Archetto.
After co-chairing the event for two years, Archetto said she sees a great deal of community spirit within the church, thanks to the festival.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. I couldn’t do it without the committee members that I have,” she said.
More than 200 volunteers work the event from the planning stages, right through to the cooking and signing up for two-hour shifts at the festival.
Chef Ray Andolfo, the food committee chairperson, held out a steaming plate of homemade lasagna as he spoke.
“This is a family affair, a parish affair,” he said. “Food brings everyone together.”
Andolfo described how he and the women of the parish get together the night before and make hundreds of meatballs, homemade sauce, trays of lasagna and lots of pastries.
“We all get to come together to be together, and in the meantime, we make some food,” he said.
Many outside food vendors participate as well, such as Dockside Seafood, Inside Scoop and Del’s Lemonade.
Alongside the food vendors, San Marco Square is set up, with flowers donated by Atwood Greenhouse and crafts made by the women in the church, all of which can be purchased during the festival.
Frank Castle’s live band, as well as the band Tribeca, and DJ John Nardolillo all took turns providing the musical entertainment for the day and night.
A bounce house, rock wall, carnival rides, a train ride, face painting and games of chance kept the children entertained throughout the day.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” said Archetto.
Father Verdelotti agreed.
“I’m having a great time. It’s good for the community and it’s good for the church,” he said. “It’s bringing people together. They get to know each other and work together. It’s a win-win situation.”