8/22/2013 - Leave the belt at home, because at GreekFest, it’s all about the food, all weekend long.
“We do most of our cooking the week before the festival, so it’s all made fresh,” festival chairman Costas Georgopoulos said. “The lamb will be marinated that week.”
Georgopoulos said they marinate about 1,000 pounds of lamb for the festival. He said that in 2012, they had over 6,000 attendees and typically average between 8,000 and 10,000 guests.
“We’ll have plenty of food,” Georgopoulos said.
There will be chicken, souvlaki — meat skewered and grilled like a kabob — and gyros, served on pita bread with toppings like tzatziki, lettuce, tomato and onion.
“Gyro” translates as “rotation” — the meat is shaved from a rotisserie. The dish is made from lamb and beef and served with tzatziki, a yogurt-based cucumber sauce. Guests can also enjoy a Greek wine or Mythos, a Greek beer.
For dessert, there are traditional Greek pastries like baklava, Greek cookies and loukoumades, a type of Greek doughnut. The dough is shaped into one-inch balls and then fried.
“We cook them right there in a deep frier,” Georgopoulos said. “We [add] our syrup with cinnamon and powdered sugar. They’re very popular items.”
Festival-goers can grab a tray or a take-out box at the food line to purchase dinners and pastries à la carte by paying the cashier at the end.
The annual festival is a big event for the entire congregation. Georgopoulos said many young adults who grew up at the church come back from college to help out during the festival.
“It’s nice to seem them returning,” Georgopoulos said. “We have approximately 150 volunteers that help throughout the weekend. The majority of them are there both days, all day long.”
Georgopoulos said guests can experience Greek culture and hospitality throughout the entire event, from the food to the music.
“It’s really the atmosphere,” Georgopoulos said. “They come visit the church, we have our Greek music, experiencing the food and also have the opportunity to visit inside of our church also to see what we’re all about.”
Ta Dilina, a traditional Greek band, will be playing live music, in addition to a DJ and dancing.
“There will be some good dancing,” Georgopoulos said. “The floor is open to anyone who will like to dance.”
There will also be crafts and jewelry as well as a kids tent with face painting, a bouncy house and other activities run by volunteers.
The festival is a fundraiser as well as a feast day celebration for the Assumption of Mary, which is Aug. 15, but Georgopoulos said they decided to move the festival to the following weekend this year.
“The weekend that we traditionally do [GreekFest] there are [other festivals],” he said. “We tried to change it this year so we don’t conflict with the other festivals. I think the people in Manchester should experience all the cultures.”
The festival has been a tradition at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester since 1990.
“Our church was established in 1936, so we’ve been [here] for over 75 years,” Georgopoulos said.