27th Annual event celebrates ethnic heritage
By Sean Barron
Summer, of course, means cookouts with hamburgers, chicken and hot dogs as the mainstays, but for many people, a longtime city festival has allowed them to give their grills a break.
That’s because many of them traded in the burgers for a bit of pastitsio or moussaka and may have selected galaktoboureko for the nightcap.
Pastitsio (baked layers of macaroni and beef with cream sauce) and moussaka (layered eggplant, beef and potato, also with sauce) were part of an a la carte menu that was a big draw for many of all ages who attended the 27th annual St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Summerfest at St. Nicholas Church, 220 N. Walnut St.
The four-day gathering that kicked off Thursday at the church wrapped up Sunday.
The fest also was to allow people to more deeply appreciate and share with each another Greek traditions, culture and faiths, noted Socrates Kolitsos, president of St. Nicholas’ parish council.
An event highlight was the array of authentic foods and pastries such as galaktoboureko, which is a delicately flavored custard baked in layers of filo dough with honey added. Also on the sweeter side of things were Greek pastries such as kourambiedes (butter cookies with powdered sugar) and oval cinnamon cookies dipped in syrup called finikia.
Among the women who baked the treats and was busy selling them Sunday was 68-year-old Antionette Cassimatis of Poland.
“We make dozens upon dozens of cookies,” said Cassimatis, a 51-year St. Nicholas member.
Cassimatis also was part of her church’s informal Tuesday Club, which, beginning last February, met each Tuesday to prepare for the Summerfest. The group often made one pastry each week, she continued.
Cassimatis noted that the festival also is a microcosm of how church members cooperate and get along with each another.
“We’re a small, but tight community,” she added. “We call it the St. Nicholas family.”
Besides the food, fellowship and fun, the gathering featured a variety of Greek items, including aromatic and lavender soaps, cookbooks, colorful beads and bracelets and a Vasilopita coin.
As part of a family celebration that dates to about the fourth century, the coin is placed in bread that is baked on New Year’s Day. Generally, the eldest family member cuts the bread, and whoever receives the piece containing the coin is said to be blessed with good luck for the year.
Also on hand was Mandy Richardson of Coventry, Ohio, who was selling about 29 natural facial creams, hair and skin products.
Richardson, a regional representative for Pireaus, Greece-based Venus Secrets, explained that the organic olive- and aloe-based items are new to the United States but are popular in much of Europe.
“A small amount of the product can go a very long way,” she said, adding that the creams and lotions soften the skin without leaving an oily residue. “The size of a pea can do your hands and arms.”
Those interested in ordering or learning more about such items can go to www.venussecrets.us, she continued.
Richardson also expressed gratitude for being asked to participate for the first time at the fest.
“The people here are absolutely wonderful,” she said.