St. George’s Greek Festival this weekend features food, dancing, and more
The smell of sweetbreads, lamb shanks and moussaka will fill the Hellenic center of St. George’s Orthodox Church during its Greek festival this weekend.
From Friday to Sunday it will include everything from Greek cuisine and dancing to church tours.
The latter will be given by the parish priest, Reverend Father Neofitos Sarigiannis, who is a newcomer to the church and has not yet attended the festival, which is in its 45th year.
“I’ve heard about this festival for many years from people in my old hometown of Queens, and can’t wait to experience it for myself,” said Sarigiannis. “We also hope to express our Greek hospitality [or] philoxenia by welcoming everyone to visit our church, the jewel of our lands and our reason, our why, for all of our hard work and effort.
Church services and tours will be offered each day of the festival, the latter covering the more than 100-year history of the congregation in the capital region.
Elsewhere, the feet of church dance troupe members will fly, while dancers ages 5 to 25 perform in traditional costumes. Folk dances originate from both mainland Greece and the islands, and the origins of some can be traced back to ancient Greece.
Throughout the weekend there will also be live music from Prometheus, a group from the capital region formed through the Greek festival. It is made up of eight members, each of first or second generation Americans of Greek descent.
Of course, one of the main attractions is the food and volunteers like Gladys Paravalos and Elaine Euripidou have been cooking for weeks. The two have been making Greek festival pastries for over two decades and often begin the process about a month in advance. They have to do this if they want to cook thousands of finikia, baklava and kataifi, not to mention tsoureki or sweetbreads.
“It takes a lot of hands,” Paravalos said.
This year, due to the pandemic, they only had a few people cooking at a time. They also baked less because they are not sure what to expect in terms of footfall.
However, they are still waiting for a few regulars.
“After 45 years, people know why they are coming,” Paravalos said.
“I think the non-Greek crowd is just as passionate about Greek pastries, maybe even more,” Euripidou said.
Some participants will gravitate towards kourambiethes, a shortbread cookie covered with powdered sugar. Others will opt for finikia, cookies with hot spices and nuts. Those who can’t make up their minds may want a bit of everything, opting for the festival’s pastry taster.
“We’re going to have both prepackaged and we’re going to have a place where people can come and order them. We wanted to welcome both mentalities ”, declared Euripidou.
As for dinner, the options are just as varied. Participants can stock up on gyroscopes or opt for Olympian kotta (roast chicken with seasonings). Volunteers will also serve vegan and gluten-free dishes like dolmades and stuffed peppers.
Dinners will be available to take away, so that those who are not comfortable eating inside can eat in the tent outside the Hellenic Center. In terms of other COVID-19 precautions, each volunteer will wear a mask and those working with food will also wear gloves and hairnets.
“We follow CDC guidelines which basically state that if you are in a high transmission area you should wear masks indoors,” said organizer Eliana Georgelos, who has been monitoring the evolution of the guidelines. Participants will be asked to hide when they are inside.
“The worry has always been ‘Is this going to get to the point where we can’t even do this anymore?’ This is the real concern, but so far everything is fine, ”said Georgelos.
The festival’s opening hours are: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday September 10 and Saturday 11 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday September 12.
In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of September 11, the church will hold a memorial service on Friday September 10 at 5:30 p.m. and a supplication service on Saturday September 11 at 6 p.m.
The Agora Market will be open throughout the festival, selling arts, crafts and religious items. The St. George Bookstore, which focuses on children’s books and gifts, will also be open.
For more information visit saintgeorgegoc.com.
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Categories: Food, Life and the Arts