Nearly 20 years ago the Church of the Immaculate Conception — more colloquially known as "St. Mary's York" — absorbed the Spanish-language church of Cristo Salvador.
A long-standing tradition at Cristo Salvador was the Parish Hispanic Festival.
When the two congregations merged, the Hispanic population kept the tradition going at St. Mary's. Since the merger, the third weekend in June has been marked by sizzling meats, succulent smells and good-natured ribbing over which nationality makes the best of various traditional Hispanic foods.
"It was Father (Bernardo) Pistone's idea," said St. Mary's deacon Catalino Gonzalez. "It was designed to raise funds, to help pay (the church's) mortgage."
When the congregation moved, they kept alive the festival tradition.
"It's a reason to get the community together, to show York there's a place to come and worship, make community," Gonzalez said.
"We treat everybody the same," he added.
The food: Traditional foods from El Salvador, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico will be prepared fresh and served hot.
Gonzalez, who's on the planning committee for the festival, said that a big draw for people should be the chance to taste real Hispanic food — not Americanized Hispanic food.
Mayra Aragones, who oversees the kitchen staff inside the parish hall during the festival, agrees: "This is real, real Mexican, Salvadorean, Dominican, Puerto Rican food. This is the food we serve in our homes. If you come visit, this is what you're going to eat."
She's been helping with the festival since 2008 and overseeing the kitchen since 2010.
"This is a family festival. Everyone should come, come and learn about our culture. We want to share our culture," she added.
Expanded: In 2012, during the annual personnel reassignment, long-serving pastor the Rev. Bob Gillelan was replaced by the Rev. Jon Sawicki, a coal-region native.
Eager to expand the parish festival's footprint, in 2013 Sawicki rebranded the festival as the "St. Mary's Parish Multicultural Festival."
Last year, traditional Polish halupkis and halushkis were sold alongside pupusas and empanadas.
In a way, it meant the festival came full circle. When the parish was founded in 1852, it was built for German immigrants — many of whom hailed from regions in what is present-day Poland — who had moved to York.
"We were built for immigrants then, and we're still serving immigrants now," Sawicki said. He estimated that the church's population is about 50/50 Spanish-speaking and English-speaking.
Bilingual: With the rebranding has come changes — the festival menus are now printed bilingually, and it's promoted equally heavily at the two English-language Masses as it is the Spanish-language Mass.
The raised awareness is working. More people attended last year than in previous years, and still more plan to attend this year.
"This is our first year coming," said Angela Moore, a lifelong St. Mary's member.
She and her husband Andrew plan to take their 2-year-old daughter Kennedy to the festival.
"Father Jon has been promoting it. He's making it sound like fun. The English-speaking people are bringing things, too," Moore said.
"We're coming for the food. I think that drew people away before, but now they're coming," she said, adding that the bilingual menus are a help.
"They're going all out. I think it's great," Moore said.
Attending the festival
The St. Mary's Parish Multicultural Festival runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the parish, 309 S. George St.
Items on the menu include
Pupusas revueltas (cornmeal tortilla filled with pork, cheese, and beans)
Pupusas de queso (cornmeal tortilla filled with cheese, served with cabbage and tomato salsa)
Pupusas de loroco y queso (cornemal tortilla with cheese and loroco, served with cabbage and tomato salsa)
Panes rellenos de pollo (chicken sandwich with mayonnaise, salada, and special tomato sauce)
Yuca frita con papescas (fried cassava, fried sardines, cabbage, and tomato salsa)
Enredos de Yuca (grated cassava)
Elotes locos (corn on the cob with mayonnaise, ketchup, and cheese)
Empanadas de plantano con leche (pastry filled with banana, milk, and sugar mix)
Alemana pan dulce (German sweet bread: Wheat flour, sugar, milk, and cinnamon)
Tortas (steak, sausage, crispy-fried steak or BBQ pork, prepared with sour cream, mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions, avocado, chipotle, and mozzarella cheese)
Tacos (steak, spicy sausage, or onions and coriander)
Tamales oaxaquenos (corn husks stuffed with chicken and plantain)
Tamales en hoja de maiz (corn husks filled with cornmeal)
Tacos dorados (corn torillas filled with chicken, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and guacamole)
Tostadas de tinga (spicey shredded chicken on a taco shell with lettuce, sour cream, and cheese)
Chicharrones de harina (fried cornmeal chips)
Sandwich Cubano (traditional Cuban sandwich with pork, ham, cheese, pickles, mayonnaise, and mustard, toasted)
Mangu encebollado, salami y queso (mashed green plantains, onions, salami, and cheese)
Rikittaki Puerto platenos (sandwich with ground beef, peppers, lettuce, and pickles)
Empanadillas de carne (fried meat pie filled with ground beef)
Empanadillas de pollo (fried meat pie billed with chicken)
Sorullitos de maiz con salsa (cornmeal sticks with mayonnaise-ketchup sauce)
Bacalaitos (fritters made with cod fish, flour, and seasonings)
Pinchos de cerdo (pork kabobs)
Classic American Festival Food
Halupki (stuffed cabbage rolls)