Greek Summerfest keeps focus on food, delivers new style of street festival
Published Sunday, July 12, 2020 4:21PM PDT Last Updated Sunday, July 12, 2020 7:10PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Greek Summerfest wants you to feast on all the souvlaki, spanakopita, lamb and loukoumades you can handle. They just ask that you please eat it somewhere far from where they're serving it.
Like many aspects of life as we knew it before the global health crisis, the hosts of the 34th annual festival and fundraiser are finding a new way to carry on while also working to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Rather than draw hundreds of people together to eat, watch live entertainment, socialize and eat some more, the festival is now drive-thru only. No live show, no dancing, no gathering alongside the neighbours outside St. Nicholas and Dimitrios Greek Orthodox Church at Boundary and East 29th Ave in East Vancouver. But that doesn't mean no enjoyment, and there's certainly no shortage of food.
"It's a little bit of a twist," says this year’s festival chairperson, Vivean Ready. Not only has the first weekend been busy, but she says the take-out service is likely going to last.
Vancouver city councillor Lisa Dominato gave her vote of approval, tweeting she's teaching her kids about their Greek-Canadian roots.
And B.C.'s health minister also shared shots of his dinner, including a side of those famous honey doughnuts.
"A lot of people are making larger orders, picking it up and going," said Ready. "Whereas if they were here, they would probably join their friends, have a meal, sit for a while, take in a show, have a snack, have dessert, have a couple of beers, a couple of wines and then they would go.
"We will definitely be providing some kind of pick up or deli service in the future or delivery service in the future because it’s been working so well. It's great for some people who don't want to come and sit here. They just want good Greek food."
With the guidance of provincial health officers, organizers have been able to establish safety protocols and guidelines in order to go ahead. Ready said the fate of the festival was "questionable" until they settled on the drive-thru model since groups of 50 people are prohibited in B.C.
Customers order ahead online through the festival’s website and are asked to stay in their vehicles while their food is delivered to them. People are asked not to stay on site to eat. All servers and festival volunteers are expected to wear masks.
The festival is also charging a 50-cent markup called the "COVID-19 recovery fee" to cover additional safety precautions such as protective equipment, sanitizer and cleaning. But for anyone who feels the fee is unfair or those safety measures unwarranted, they offer a code to avoid payment.
Ready said the Greek Orthodox Community of East Vancouver relies on the festival to fund events and services throughout the year, including programs for seniors and youth as well as Greek heritage and language lessons. They have plans to build a permanent daycare and preschool.
"This will be a fraction of what we normally raise," she said. "We are hoping we'll get by OK. We have a lot of support from our community and corporate donors that are trying to help us out."
Greek Summerfest runs for two weekends, continuing until 8 p.m. Sunday, July 12. They open again next weekend, starting Friday, July 17 from 3 to 8 p.m. and again Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19.
Place an order through their website.