The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation or postponement of many Lancaster County cultural traditions this year.
But it can’t stop the souvlaki!
The 62nd annual Greek Food Bazaar, which has been scaled back from its usual format because of pandemic protocols, will take place Saturday and Sunday.
Some of the Greek dishes and pastries that thousands of Lancaster countians look forward to every year will be served in a drive-thru-only format at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Hershey Avenue.
But the music, dancing, vendors, church tours and the rest of the Greek cultural offerings that usually accompany the food inside the church will be missing this year.
“We’ll have four drive-thru lanes,” says Alexandra Schramm, a co-chair of the event. “They will be right outside the back door, at the widest part of our parking lot.
“We’re going to space two tents out, and then we’re going to have our ‘air traffic controllers’ guiding the traffic, funneling from two lanes to four lanes and back down to two lanes to exit (the lot),” Schramm says. “We’ll have pastry available both at the first two tents and then additional pastry at a (separate) tent at the bottom” of the parking lot.”
The menu is more limited than usual this year, with just one kind of souvlaki platter available, along with a smaller amount of some of the Greek desserts traditionally sold at the bazaar.
“It’s definitely scaled down,” Schramm says. “The items that we make are pretty labor intensive and require a lot of volunteers. And we can’t have all of those people (close together) and still have proper protocols” for COVID-19.
The souvlaki platter, featuring one pork and one chicken shish-kebab, rice, spanakopita (spinach pie), a Greek salad, pita bread and tzatziki sauce, is $13 in advance or $15 on the days of the event.
Desserts, including kourambiethes (greek butter cookies), koulourakia (twisted cookies), loukoumathes (honey balls), baklava (layered nut pastries) and rice pudding, will be pre-packaged and range in price from $7 to $15 a container.
“We also have online ordering ... the first time this year,” Schramm says. “which we’re excited about.”
Advance tickets can be ordered on the event website or by calling the church (see accompanying box).
“The variety box will be different,” Schramm says, “because we couldn’t put every (pastry) that we typically put in, but I think everyone’s going to love it, because we’re putting in more of the stuff that everyone loves.”
The event also will offer the opportunity to donate to a food program.
“Given the hunger and the food insecurity that’s going on out there right now,” Schramm says, “we’ve started a program called Donate a Dinner.” Those ordering food can donate online or at the drive-thru tents.
The church will match every $10 donated; the proceeds go to fund the church’s biweekly food box distribution program for those in need in the community.
For a church community that turns 100 in 2021, “part of what we love is not only sharing our food every year, but also sharing our hospitality and our culture — with the dancing and giving people tours of the church — so it’s really touching all parts of the Greek Orthodox faith and culture,” Schramm says.
But because the public can’t come into the church right now, “we’ll feed people this year,” she adds. “As with anything, this is untested territory. We hope people will support us.”