Although COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of many summer traditions, the annual St. Rita Parish Festival in Connellsville will go on, but will be an Italian cuisine drive-thru.
“Normally, we have a pretty nice event,” said event co-chair Paul Mongell of the festival’s fair with games, entertainment, vendors and the authentic Italian food.
However, COVID-19 uncertainties have lead organizers to rethink their approach for this year’s event.
“We were concerned because a lot of our volunteers are a high-risk group, including myself,” Mongell said. “We felt we couldn’t social distance with everything, it would be too cumbersome and not the right time to have a party.”
The organizers did, though, decide to still hold the festival though they will only be keeping one popular feature: the food.
This year, the festival is advertised as “Festa D’Asporto,” meaning “Festival to Go,” as people will be able to purchase food via drive-thru service. No walk-up service will be provided.
For $5, people can purchase cavatelli and meatball combo, manicotti and meatball combo, a sausage sandwich or a meatball sandwich on homemade bread. For $8 each, they can purchase a box of pizza containing four slices or one pack of the popular fried dough with a pack of four per car.
One of the hurdles was finding ground meat for the meatballs as volunteers made 7,000 meatballs during a ground-meat shortage.
Another obstacle was figuring out how exactly to have drive-thru service as they’ve never had to do such a thing before.
Mongell said they’re asking that vehicles pull onto 3rd Street, enter the parking lot of the social hall.
Once in the parking lot, around eight six-foot tables will be in the center like a buffet-style meal with four serving areas like a large drive-thru where people can place their orders, pay with cash only and volunteers will place the orders in quality, microwave-safe containers to prevent leakage in a customer’s back seat or trunk.
“We think we have the process down,” Mongell said, adding that he believes everyone will have an efficient and affordable experience.
Another change is the 50/50 tickets will be available for purchase, but will have to be purchased by calling the Catholic Community of Connellsville at 724-628-6840 or calling Louis at 724-626-1954.
Also, Mongell said the number of days the festival ran was normally Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but this year’s festival will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 10; Saturday, July 11 and Friday, July 17. Line up for the drive-thru begins at 3:30 p.m.
“Maybe we’ll get a few repeat customers,” Mongell said.
More information on the festival, including a map detailing traffic flow, is available on the St. Rita Parish Festival Facebook page.