97th St. Peter’s Italian Bazaar Resumes With Some Changes to Accommodate Pandemic

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Sal Bonetti, Co-chair of the 97th St. Peter’s Italian Bazaar This Afternoon.  This  is His Tenth Year in That Post.

Maria Donatelli, A Long-Time Volunteer at the Bazaar.

Empty Tables That Are Expected to be Occupied by Bazaar Goers This Evening and Tomorrow; 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

“We have made some changes this year to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sal Bonetti, co-chair of the St. Peter’s Italian  Bazaar, late this afternoon at the Federal Street location on the east end of Portland. The Bazaar is a fundraiser for the Church in its 97th year. It runs runs from 5:00 pm -9:00 pm. tonight and tomorrow evening.

This year the normally three day fundraiser has been curtailed to two evenings – tonight and tomorrow, Saturday, August 14th.  There will be no Bazaar on Sunday.  Normally, there are lots of games with special appeal to children.  This year there will be none because it requires people to get “too close to each other,” said Sal.

Tables have been spread out to keep participants as far from each other as is possible.  Two popular bands will be returning tonight:  The Joe Campi Band and The Carmine Band.

The fundraiser has been hampered by the loss of many older and long time volunteers who have passed on since the last event before the pandemic.  But, the good news is that many younger people have stepped up to take their places – something Sal has been urging them to do for years now.

Sal has gained daily access to Johns Hopkins Covid Data.  He checks it every morning to see “what trends are developing – both positive and negative – across the country.”

“If the decision were up to me,” I would have canceled the Bazaar,” Sal said. But the decision wasn’t his to make.  It was made by a Committee of about fourteen people who oversee the Bazaar.  The Committee voted last Wednesday to go forward with it.  “There are human lives at risk here,” said Sal. Sal who is a financial advisor, said “I know the Bazaar will be busy.  I just hope it will be safe.” The rationalization for the Bazaar to go forward is its outdoor location. Sal graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in engineering, but the world of finance was always his priority.  “It is extremely fulfilling to help people with their finances,” he said.  He also played professional hockey with the Bay State Bombers in Boston for six years. That’s tough on your body he said.

Kevin Viola, who was helping setting up, told this blogger:  “COVID-19 has become political.  It happened when the Democrats blamed Trump.”  He said he wasn’t concerned about a possible COVID-19 spread at the Bazaar:   “Because the human body was designed to fight infection.  No one is dying from COVID-19 today.  People are dying from pre-existing conditions.” Sadly, he was serious.

Dominick Reali, the owner of Amato’s, has been participating in the Bazaar for ten  years. His large booth will sell a variety of pasta dinners, including sausage as well as chicken parm.  His stores have been adversely affected by the pandemic because he has had trouble hiring kitchen help. Dominick arrived in the US sixty years ago when he was twelve years old.

“I’ve been volunteering here since I was in high school,” said Maria Donatelli.  “I sell pizza and fried dough.  We are all a family.  This is a yearly reunion.  Everybody has to make their own decision to stay safe.”