Person of the Week
Peter Perkins: Manning the Italian Fest and Much More
A familiar face to many, Peter Perkins gives back to his hometown in many ways. On Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24 and 25, he’ll be back at the heart of the St. George Men’s Group’s popular Italian Festival, helping the all-volunteer group put on a fun event with proceeds to benefit Guilford Meals on Wheels. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Whether he’s stirring up sauce, manning a smoker, swinging a hammer, or supporting local farming, Peter Perkins is one of those guys who, as he says, is “willing to sweat for somebody else.”
As a member of the St. George Men’s Group (SGMG), Peter will soon be at the heart of the group’s popular Italian Festival—just look for the guy cooking up sausage and peppers or Philly steak and cheese subs, and you’ll find him. The SGMG Italian Festival is set for Friday, Aug. 24 from 5 to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug 25 from 3 to 10:30 p.m. at St. George Church, 33 Whitfield Street. Admission is $5 (for ages 16 and up; those under 16 enter free) and proceeds from the event assist the all-volunteer SGMG with its ability to answer the call for social justice through good works and help neighbors in need. This year’s Italian Festival proceeds will benefit Guilford Meals on Wheels.
Peter has been a member of SGMG since it first formed up four years ago. Since that time, SGMG has raised and donated more than $180,000 to local and national charities. Peter thanks the Guilford community for coming out to support SGMG’s special events and signature gatherings like the popular Italian Festival.
“We do a lot of events and we raise a lot of money,” says Peter, who will be one of a core group at the fest at all hours, from cooking things up the night before to being there at the opening bell and staying until the final hour.
“We anchor it [as] a committee, but we have at least 75 members in our group, so we’re able to have different guys come in for two or three-hour shifts,” he says.
This year, the guys are pumping up the fun factor at the festival, with some friendly competitions for best home-cooked meatball (in pro and amateur categories), champion spaghetti eater, and team grape-stomping—with an extra prize for the stomper best-dressed like Lucille Ball from her circa-1950s Italian grape-stomping TV episode.
The entry fee for each contest is $10 (which includes admission to the festival). Everyone interested in getting in on the contest fun must pre-register. Entry forms and more information are at www.stgeorgemensgroup.org or by calling 203-314-2586.
“The festival itself is always popular, but the new contests are our way of trying to make more excitement about the event and try to draw even more people to it,” says Peter. “We also have great entertainment, all the great food, and a lot of activities.”
Friday’s live music features the Shiny Lapel Trio followed by Four Barrel Billy. Saturday’s show features The Adlers Band. Festival food is cooked up and served up by SGMG members and includes fried dough pizza, sausage and peppers, meatball subs, eggplant subs, Philly steak and cheese, pasta and meatballs, lasagna, pasta fagioli, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, Caesar salad, raw bar, cannolis, and gelato as well as beer, wine, and soft drinks. Fest activities include dancing, face-painting, a games area for kids, a bocce tournament, and contests.
Helping in the Community
If it sounds like helping to pull off the Italian Festival is a lot of extra work for Peter, you probably don’t know Peter. Actually, if you live in town, he’s pretty hard to miss. For starters, he serves in town government as the chair of the Agricultural Commission, has been a long-serving member and is a current board member of the Guilford Agricultural Society (GAS), owns and operates his eponymous Perkins Poultry Farm in North Guilford, and works his “day job” in construction. Pete’s also a self-taught chef.
“I spend a lot of time kicking around at Naples Pizza, making stuff,” says Peter, a friend of the local restaurant family since he was in high school.
He’s also a whiz at whipping up everything from lobster to ribs in his signature “giant smoker” and has volunteered his catering services to good causes, such as cooking up ribs and chicken for 130 volunteers at the 2017 APK Charities of Madison’s 5K and 5K Ruck March at the Guilford Fairgrounds (where SGMG members cooked for race participants).
A Guilford native of some 54 years, Peter and his wife, Jeri, have been married 29 years. Jeri is a member of the APK Charities board. At St. George’s, she serves as a Eucharistic minister. She’s also one of three founders, and a board member, of St. George’s LBGTQ-supportive ministry, “Always Our Children.” Peter is also “deeply involved” with that church program, he says.
“This church, these doors are open to anyone,” says Peter. “That’s another thing with our men’s group—you do not need to be Catholic to be in St. George Men’s group. It’s open to anybody who’s willing to sweat for somebody else.”
To give back to his hometown, Peter chairs Guilford’s five-member Agricultural Commission. Commissioners are appointed by the Board of Selectman and assist with the town’s balance of agricultural issues, economic efforts, education, and more. The commission provides input to the town and works to find ways to support responsible farming here, Peter explains.
“We try to support small farming and farms, because without farms, there’s no food,” he says.
Peter also enjoys his volunteer work with GAS, not only by helping to manage the GAS-owned Guilford Fairgrounds and put on September’s annual Guilford Fair, but by helping to sustain the work of GAS to honor the town’s agricultural roots.
The Perkins’ two children, now young adults, still love to help on the family farm, where Peter, a licensed poultry dealer, raises chickens, pheasants, quail, ducks, and peacocks. Peter’s late dad started the family’s North Guilford farm in the 1940s, and Peter turned up the farm’s poultry focus about 20 years ago.
“My family’s been doing something in poultry for 100 years,” says Peter, whose great-grandparents immigrated here from England and started a poultry farm in North Haven. “There’s just been feathers in our blood.”
Peter supplies fresh eggs to friends and neighbors (including three dozen delivered weekly to the church’s priests), brings in farm animals for kids to get a gander at during Guilford Early Days (volunteering as a member of Guilford Keeping Society), and also raises quail and pheasant for Guilford Sportsmen’s Association (GSA), of which he’s a long-standing member. His dad helped build the GSA clubhouse in the early 1970s, he notes.
With his construction background, Peter puts his skills to work helping locally, volunteering with non-profit Home Front.
“Home Front basically provides a lot of the materials for us, and we give our knowledge and skills,” says Peter, who is part of a group of locals providing services. “We just recently went up to a house in Guilford that needed repair, because the people financially weren’t able to take care of it. Whatever a job needs, we’ve pretty much got somebody in our group that will get involved and do it.”
For recreation, Peter has been playing men’s softball since he was a junior in high school, starting with the former Guilford league and now playing at the Connecticut Sportsplex in North Branford, He also enjoys another, more unique sport, as well.
“In my spare time, I play horseshoes on a three-man team in the Deep River Horseshoe League,” says Peter, whose team is now headed into playoffs.
Always Time to Help Others
No matter how busy his life may be, Peter says he will always make himself available to assist others, especially when it comes to helping out those in his community.
“People would say my father would give the shirt off his back to help anybody,” says Peter. “I remember as a child, growing up in North Guilford, him doing the same thing, helping neighbors, helping people. I’ve always been part of that. We always try to give help to people who need it, who can’t help themselves. That’s the way the world should be.”