What originally started as a small picnic nearly 80 years ago, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help barbecue has ballooned into a large community event — attended by hundreds this past weekend for the first time since the pandemic began.
The 78th annual barbecue returned following a brief hiatus during the pandemic, and although it has been scaled down a tad, Father Craig Cox said it was just wonderful to have everyone back together again.
“It is just so good that we can gather as a community again,” said Cox. “You know, we did a lot of stuff online and Zoom and livestreaming and that at least kept us in contact with people… But we couldn’t celebrate. We couldn’t get together and just enjoy each other’s company like this. So it’s just so good that we’re able to get back to this.”
In addition to some barbecue, attendees could also feast on a wide variety of Mexican, Italian, and other cultural foods during the event, which ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There was also plenty to drink – with a wide range of beer and cocktail options available. There were also carnival games for the kids and a long list of bands providing live music.
Darlene Sustento, event organizer, said this year was a feeler on how turnout would be post-pandemic. Before COVID, the barbecue would essentially be a three-day carnival – equipped with full-scale rides and games. Sustento said that, given the circumstances, she’s satisfied with the turnout.
“Really good turnout to me. I think there’s a lot of people, the [lights] help a lot, you know, but we don’t have it as big as we used to, with the rides,” said Sustento. “We’re slowly coming back, it’s like a test and we’ll see it get bigger every year.”
One thing Sustento, Cox and other event organizers wanted to communicate was that although the event was held by the church, it was open to all faiths and religions.
“We’re a community and we all live together and we all need to be at peace with each other and have and have fun, you know, just have a good old, good old-fashioned carnival to bring people together,” said Sustento. “We get to meet a lot of new people… our doors are open to help anyone.”
David West, an attendee, said although he isn’t a Catholic he still very much enjoys the communal aspect of the event.
“I have very good friends who are very involved in this church. And we support strongly, the faith the community,” said West. “Community, that word means, you know, everybody pulling together and getting together, in my mind that the pandemic is over.”