December 2, 2021

Filling the festival void

St. Anthony’s Church offers monthly food sales

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Sheila Ossit, left, hands Jamie Godown cannolis and chicken parmesan sandwiches Saturday outside St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cortland. The church is selling food on several weekends to help fill the gap left by the cancelation of the annual St. Anthony’s Festival due to COVID restrictions.

The cars lined up along the driveway next to St. Anthony of Padua Church on Pomeroy Street in Cortland shortly before noon Saturday, extending around the corner onto Elm Street.

At the beginning of the line, next to a portable tent, Sheila Ossit handed bags of meatball or chicken parmesan sandwiches and cannolis through passenger side car windows. It was part of one of several monthly food sales events held as a substitute for the annual St. Anthony’s Festival, which was canceled last June and again this June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One group of customers stood out Saturday. Jamie Godown had stopped in front of the line of vehicles as she pushed a double stroller carrying her children, Elsie Porter, 4, and Gordon Porter, 2.

“I did not know it was going on,” Godown said. “I saw the line of cars.”

She said they have lived on Central Avenue, not far from the church, for about five years and were disappointed that the festival could not be offered. Godown said in past years before last year they would enjoy the music and fireworks.

“We would have come to get some stuff at the festival,” she said.

The church leaders are trying to determine which other activities they can plan this year as they try to fill the social, spiritual and financial hole left by the cancellation of the festival.

In the basement kitchen of the church, a crew of volunteers gathered around a large table. They spooned the contents of trays of meatballs and chicken parmesan into rolls to make sandwiches, which were wrapped and brought out to other volunteers working under the tent near the parking lot to distribute to the customers in cars.

The church will sell food at curbside the second Saturday of each month through September. The menu will vary and next month’s will be determined soon.

Carl Fadale, the unofficial head chef, said he was told that cars began lining up early.

“It started at 11 and they were lined up at 10:15,” he said.

“We began dishing out at about a quarter to (11),” added Matt Banazek, another volunteer.

The group was anticipating selling 420 sandwiches Saturday.

Fadale said the church had another event last month at which 220 entire meals were sold to go.

On Saturday, Godown walked away with two cannolis and a box of chicken parmesan sandwiches that Ossit handed her.

“I usually handle the cake wheel,” Ossit said.