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Bellerose church to host annual summer festival

Instead of counting the days until summer vacation, standing on a street corner or urging children to get out of the house to enjoy the warm summer night, take a trip over to St. Gregory the Great Parish in Bellerose to check out its 23rd Gregorian Summer Festival.

The event, which takes place from June 20 to June 30, gets underway Thursday evening with a parade through Bellerose led by this year’s grand marshals, Artie and Mary Tyrie. The couple was chosen for their long-term involvement with the festival.

“The reason the festival started was to support our school,” said the Rev. Joseph Cunningham, pastor at St. Gregory the Great. “The money raised is used for the running of the school each year. It keeps tuition lower.”

If the weather holds, he said, the parish hopes to raise more than $100,000. Cunningham said the money generated at the festival makes the tuition for the school’s 500 students from kindergarten through eighth grade one of the lowest around.

The school also is gearing up for its 50th anniversary in 2003, he said. The parish will hold different events and programs on weekends throughout the year for the school’s alumni.

The church, named after St. Gregory, a 7th century pope who sent St. Augustine to convert England to Catholicism, was founded in 1936. St. Gregory’s at 242-20 88th Ave. sits on both sides of the Cross Island Parkway and is linked by an underground tunnel.

The church was built before urban planner Robert Moses laid down the Cross Island through Bellerose, and so now the highway divides the property, Cunningham said.

The festival, themed “A Catholic School Remembering its Past, Preparing for Tomorrow,” takes place in the parish’s schoolyard and ballfield. In addition to games of chance, rides and gambling, there is music and food every night based on an international theme. There are three Irish nights, one Polish night, two German nights and three Italian nights.

Anybody can enter the grounds to sit down, take in the atmosphere, people watch, listen to the music or hit the dance floor. The senior citizens in the area “really enjoy coming by in the evening to listen to the music,” Cunningham said.

The event is organized by George Berry and Tony Cotroneo of Bellerose, with the help of volunteers drawn from members of the church’s 2,500 families, which come from Bellerose, Floral Park and Queens Village, and the parents of the schoolchildren. About 650 people are needed throughout the 11-day festival to make everything go off without a hitch.

“It is a great event for the parish and surrounding neighborhoods,” he said. “In terms of total participation, it is a unique event. So many people spend so many hours and donate their time for a good cause.”

The festival grounds are on 88th Avenue on the northbound service road of the Cross Island Parkway. The northbound exit is 27 and the southbound exit is 27W between the Jericho Turnpike and Hillside Avenue.

For more information on the festival, please call the Gregorian Festival Committee at 347-3707.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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