St. Sebastian festival features food favorites

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The annual St. Sebastian Parish Festival in Ross Township has many attractions that people look forward to, such as rides and entertainment.

But one of the biggest draws probably is the food, said Tommy Hoffman, outdoor food booth coordinator.

“The outdoor food booth probably has the most extensive menu for any food booth at a church festival,” said Hoffman, 62, of McCandless.

The food booth, which is July 7 through July 12 this year, has some new food items to add, including Philadelphia cheese steaks, grilled veggie burgers, corndogs on a stick and a new type of funnel cake called the Chocolate Volcano Explosion, Hoffman said.

The new funnel cake will be topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream and crushed Oreo cookies and then drizzled with chocolate syrup, Hoffman said.

The funnel cakes are a better quality than those at some other festivals because the batter is made freshly throughout the night and cooked right at the food booth when someone orders one, Hoffman said.

The outdoor food booth also will have Schneider's Dairy beverages, such as iced tea and lemonade, available in bottles instead of cans, and it will offer gravy fries in addition to cheese fries, Hoffman said.

The pizza is another popular food item because while the dough is bought ahead of time, the sauce is freshly made fresh, and the pizzas, available with a plain cheese topping or pepperoni, are cooked at the booth, Hoffman said. Customers can buy whole pies or slices. All of the food booth's menu items are available to go or can be eaten at the festival, Hoffman said.

Because of the fresh and high-quality ingredients, the items served at the food booth are of the same or better quality than what is offered at restaurants, and the prices are cheaper, Hoffman said.

“We want to make the festival available, from an income basis, for all families and children,” Hoffman said. “We're a faith community open to families and fun.”

The outdoor food booth makes thousands of dollars at the festival, and all the revenue goes to general parish operations and school operations, said Mario Grana, a festival committee co-chairman.

Another festival fixture is the farmers market, which features locally grown and other produce, Grana said. The market has several items that are popular, such as Rainier cherries, black apricots and Angelcot white-flesh apricots that are exceptionally sweet and in peak season at the same time as the festival, Grana said.

As in recent years, the festival has been a key time for the sale of tickets for the parish's vehicle raffle. This year's prize is a 2014 Chevrolet Equinox. Raffle tickets are $20 each. Only 4,000 tickets are sold. The drawing will be Oct. 26.

Rides at the festival always are popular, Grana said. There will be 11, including a Ferris wheel and a giant slide.

A flea market in the parish school during the festival has goods that are sorted and laid out according to item type.

People don't have to wait for the festival to buy. The flea market's presale will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 3 and from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 5.

Indoor themed dinners are served in the school cafeteria the first five days of the festival.

With 10,000 to 12,000 visitors every year, the annual festival is a great place for family fun, and admission to the festival grounds is free, Grana said.

“It's a place where families and friends can gather for fellowship,” Grana said.

“You'll eat some good food and have a good time.”

The festival has become a community fixture, Grana said.

“We get more and more popular every year,” Grana said. “If you live in the North Hills, you know about our festival.”

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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