“In the 1960s we had the Oktoberfest, and then we had a lot of other ethnic parishioners join and they wanted to bring their food. So we turned it into an International Festival in the late-70s,” said Tim Paul, who co-chairs International Festival along with Mel Smith.
The festival began Saturday morning at St. Mary Church on the corner of Fifth and Market streets in downtown Portsmouth, with an Antique, Custom Car and Truck Show. The show is an annual tradition at the festival, and always a crowd favorite.
James Woods of Oak Hill has been coming to the car show since 2009. He enjoys showing off his 2003, 50th Anniversary, 5.7 liter (405 factory horsepower), six-speed, torch red Corvette Z06, with an impressive stereo system. Woods said he enjoys taking his car to shows.
“About once a week I’ll clean it up and get ready for another show. I’ve went to Columbus; I’ve went to Huntington, W.Va.; I’ve went to Winchester, Ky., and others. I like this show because a lot of people get together and have a good time. There are a lot of nice looking cars to look at,” he said.
Behind the church, tents and tables are set up, where international St. Mary parishioners are selling foods from their native homes.
“We’ve always got the German food, and that’s always good — potato salad and brats. Then we’ve got the Middle East. We’ve also got Italy, and this year we’ve got a new item: Japan. We’ve got Appalachian, of course, and we’ve got American which is Scioto Ribber ribs. And we’ve got Mexico,” Paul said.
There’s also a raffle, giving away a $1,000 cash grand prize and a 46-inch high-definition flat-screen television as second prize. Also cash prizes of $100 each for second- through fifth-place. The drawing will be tonight at 6 p.m.
There’s a rummage sale, craft room, quilt show, and cook books for sale. Live music Saturday was provided on stage by the Gary Billups Trio, the Shane Runion Band, and the Cirque d’art Step Dancers.
“This started out just to get the food out because people wanted to try it, but it’s also the fellowship. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s an opportunity for others to come here and see our parish,” Paul said.
This is the first year that Fr. Adam Streitenberger has experienced the International Festival. Originally from Waverly, Streitenberger joined the St. Mary Parish in July from St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gahanna.
“I’m excited. Especially with all the food and everything,” he said. “I’ve been to festivals, but not like this. This is unique.”
He said he was surprised how smoothly the volunteers were able to assemble the festival.
“Food and fun is a good opportunity to get together, and we’re reminded of our fellowship and our love for each other. It’s a little taste of Heaven,” Streitenberger said.
The St. Mary International Festival will continue at the church through today, from noon to 7 p.m., with live music by the Wulfe Bros. from Louisville, Ky., Laura Call, John Hogan and Jason Burton, and City Heat.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.