WILMINGTON — Basile Katsikis is known mostly for standup comedy he’s been performing (in both Greek and English, nonetheless) worldwide over the last few decades. In Wilmington, however, his family’s membership to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church keeps him bustling in a different manner. Every year, he helps with spring’s annual Greek Festival and its follow-up fall event—a smaller, drive-thru option.
Though the pandemic canceled the three-day May festival, which normally welcomes more than 20,000 people, the drive-thru will press on through Sunday and has expanded into three service lines instead of two.
“I’d love to say we will be serving 20,000 cars this weekend, but I’m afraid I’d be lying,” Katsikis said. “I came up with the drive-thru concept five years ago because my mother is handicap.”
The main festival, located on the church grounds at 608 South College Rd., wasn’t as easily accessible for wheelchairs because of the sheer amount of people. Tents would spill over with attendees buying food, watching bands, dancing, and purchasing Greek wine and beer.
Katsikis decided a drive-thru would work to serve anyone who didn’t want to fight the crowds. The May festival offers this option, but eventually it evolved into a separate fall spinoff as well. The menu is abbreviated in fall to only moussaka, spanakopita, gyros, patstitio, tiropita, dolmathes, and pastries.
“We also sell a sampler platter for folks who want a taste of it all,” Katsikis said Friday. “We opened only 15 minutes ago and already a line has begun.”
Though St. Nicholas lost funds from May’s event, the logistics already were in place for festival directors Nick Saffo and Lee King to continue forward with fall’s drive-thru safely under Covid-19 restrictions.
According to Father Steven Klund, St. Nicholas has been hosting Covid-compliant Sunday sermons since the end of May, too.
“We screen everyone, and take temperatures when they come in, hand out masks if they don’t have one,” Fr. Klund says. “We also have them sign a waiver with emergency contact info. We follow the same protocol for baptisms and funerals.”
Pews are marked 8 feet apart to seat families, and St. Nicholas offers spaced-out overflow seating in a separate room outfitted with a projector to livestream the homily.
“We haven’t had any setbacks so far,” Fr. Klund said.
The church served a congregation of 240-250 before the shutdown, and today they welcome 80 parishioners, give or take, weekly. They all chip in to help make the food for the Greek Fest. Katsikis confirmed they’re also moving forward with planning 2021’s May event.
“Sure, we do it as a fundraiser,” he said, “and like every church community, everything is tight financially right now.”
Though the real payoff, according to Katsikis, comes in bringing together the community, giving folks a positive experience and of course a taste of Greece. “It’s important to have some fun—we have to keep that spirit going.”
The Wilmington Greek Festival Drive-Thru is open Oct. 23-25, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
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