Peabody comes together following festival cancellation

A line of people waiting to buy Polish food filled the sidewalk in front of the St. Michael's Society. (Emma Fringuelli)

PEABODY — The city’s annual International Festival was called off Saturday evening with Sunday’s forecast predicting severe thunderstorms, triggering a wave of smaller events to crop up across the city in place of the sprawling festival.

The risk of “strong thunderstorms with heavy downpours” created a “significant public safety hazard” given the size of the festival and the high volume of electrical power sources that would be in use to facilitate cooking equipment and musical entertainment, Mayor Ted Bettencourt said in a statement announcing the cancellation. And, Bettencourt said, “this year’s calendar does not allow for a festival rain date,” meaning no festival will be held in 2023.

The Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce said no rain date was picked out of respect for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a pair of Jewish holidays observed each of the next two weekends.

Bettencourt said the festival would return in full force next fall.

“We all agreed to start work on next year’s event, which we plan to make the biggest and best International Festival yet,” Bettencourt wrote.

The decision to call off what officials had dubbed “the biggest block party on the North Shore” and one of the largest annual events in Peabody sparked a wave of disappointment, with some residents taking to social media to express concern for the local businesses and other groups that had spent months preparing for the fest. And so, a smaller, spread-out International Festival was born.

At St. Vasilios Church, a “Greek Festival” was held beginning at 10:30 a.m. with a bounty of food — including gyro, lamb, and chicken wraps; Greek salads, spanakopita, and Greek pastries. The United Polish Organization was at St. Michael’s Hall from 2-4 p.m., offering golabki, kapusta, kielbasa, and paczki.

Both locales were quickly selling out of food Sunday afternoon.

Granite Coast Brewing welcomed Boy Scout Pack 621, which was selling treats during the day at the brewery.

Plat Du Jour’s planned “New England style” booth was scrapped, but the catering company was still offering football-friendly food — just in time to align with the first full day of NFL football.

At Mills 58, Dancing Donuts set up a pop-up shop at Frankie Slice with plenty of donuts available.

Together, the disparate events and pop-ups represented the city coming together to buoy local businesses on what was likely to be one of their biggest days of the year.

The Festival Committee encouraged disappointed residents to “support all the awesome businesses downtown today and every day.”

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