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Thousands flock to 23rd parish festival

The food for the St. Mary's of the

The food for the St. Mary's of the Isle Family Festival and International Street Fair was donated by local businesses and families. (July 7, 2012) Credit: Mary Kate Mahoney

St. Mary’s of the Isle parish celebrated its diversity this weekend at its 23rd International Street Fair as thousands packed the sidewalks along Park Avenue in Long Beach, strolling between the food stands and carnival rides.

“St. Mary’s parish is like a mini United Nations,” said Maryann Specht, the church’s director of religious education who’s helped organized the event for the past 15 years. “This is a very welcoming parish, so the whole community comes together to help out with the fair.”

Families and local businesses organized food stations selling Spanish, Greek, Philippine and Italian dishes.

Mariza Navera, 17, volunteered with her family to run a tropical smoothie stand. All of the fruit was donated by her father, Pasquale Tuosto, owner of Pat’s Farms supermarket in Merrick.

“Last year was our first time at the fair and it was a success,” Navera said. “It’s fun. I like doing it.”

Other volunteers have been working with the fair since its beginning.

“This is a family fair, so we’ve all volunteered as families since our kids were little” said Long Beach resident Jane Webster. “My youngest [child] is now 30, and I still volunteer.”

The event raises an average of $40,000 annually, with the proceeds going to the repairs and maintenance of  church facilities.

The festival started Thursday and ends Sunday. The fun goes from 5 to 11 p.m. at the church, 315 E. Walnut St., Long Beach.

“This is something for the whole community,” said volunteer Liz Wisely, who has been working the fair for more than 20 years. “Seeing happy faces and enjoying the summer is the best part.”

The parish had something else to celebrate this year. St. Mary’s pastor Msgr. Robert Brennan has been selected as an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Brennan will be ordained July 25 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre.

“The parish is a very close-knit community, and we are very blessed to have a bishop now,” Webster said.

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