As the colorful onions sizzled in the frying pan, and church volunteer Thomas Avallone flipped the cooking kebabs, exposing roasted brown meat, he sprinkled peppers on the food for attendees at Blessed Sacrament’s ninth annual four-day Family Festival in Valley Stream.
“Haitian, Spanish, Jamaican, African, Italian and practically every other ethnic background is portrayed here through our foods at our festival,” said Avallone, a member of the Grand Knight Saint Teresa Counsel 2622 Little Flower and a volunteer cook at the festival. “The purpose of our festival is to bring together parishioners of every ethnic background to celebrate family, the culmination of the end of the summer, and to bring people together to raise money for the church and underprivileged Valley Streamers.”
Although money gained from the festival is mainly to support the church and its building, through Blessed Sacrament’s Parish Social Ministry, any extra funds raised from the event will be distributed to underprivileged Valley Streamers who qualify to receive help providing for their families. In order to qualify for the aid, the family must live in geographical boundaries of the parish and go through a review to determine how the church can help them.
Many participants and attendees at the festival said they found it refreshing that the proceeds raised from the event will not only provide for the church, but for people living in Valley Stream.
“I think this festival is truly family friendly,” said Valley Streamer Kayla Larosiliere. “I think it’s great that this festival is going to truly help those in the Valley Stream community who need money.”
“Not a lot of festivals are church oriented,” Lea Stewart said. “I think it’s especially important for me to attend this festival because when I attend, I can have the satisfaction of knowing that I am helping underprivileged children.”
On the Friday of the festival, smoke could be seen rising in the air from frying pans, which spread an aroma of freshly cooked ethnic food, while groups of Valley Streamers and members of neighboring communities had fun on various rides, enjoyed the food, played games and entered raffles to win prizes.
Many of the activities at the festival, visitors and volunteers said, helped them recall pleasant childhood memories from when they attended the it in the past.
“I came to the festival specifically for the cotton candy,” Tariq Zaman said. “Just the sweet and savory taste of cotton candy instantly takes me back to when I was a kid eating [it] at this same festival.”
“Riding rides at this festival is part of my childhood,” said Christopher Meyers. “Being [here] helps me to remember old childhood memories, while creating new memories that I’ll never forget.”
“My favorite part of this festival is the food,” said Alyssa Sakoor, as she wiped the powdered sugar of a fried Oreo from her mouth.
The reverend administrator, Father Laurence Onyegu, said he hopes that all people will feel welcome to come to this festival for years to come. He also hopes people will recognize that the festival is not just for the church, but for the people.
“We are not just here for the church, but to feed the community,” he said. “I want people to know that you don’t have to be Catholic to attend this festival because if you are human, you are welcome.”