NEW BRITAIN - The return to spring weather Saturday brought a good turnout to the 35th annual Dionysos Greek Festival at St. George Greek Orthodox Church.
It was too chilly for people to go to the beach, so they come to the festival instead, said Michael T. Michael, parish council president. “This is festival weather. People come here to eat and enjoy it.”
The spring festival generally draws about 10,000 people over three days, he said. “This is our biggest event. We have a smaller one in the fall but it’s all inside.”
A tent set up in the parking lot became the most popular temporary Greek restaurant in the area, serving specialties including moussaka, a casserole of eggplant, ground meat and white sauce; souvlaki, a Greek variation of shish-kebab; and spanakopita, a spinach pie.
Inside the church hall, there was a whole table of pastries, handmade by the women of the parish.
“All the women help each other, and we make everything here. Nobody is the chairman, we are all the chairmen. We get a lot of people here, lines and lines. For the food line, it’s out in the street,” said Jenny Loukopoulos, from Plainville.
The most popular pastry was galaktobouriko, which is made with custard and filo dough, said Marsha Bogiatzis, whose husband, the Rev. James Bogiatzis, is the priest at St. George.
“We make our own custard, with milk, butter and eggs, and then put it in between the filo leaves. Then after it’s baked. we put syrup with honey on top. It’s more popular than the baklava, because baklava has a lot of leaves, it takes about 40, and you have to butter them so that’s a lot of butter. The galaktobouriko is a little lighter,” she said.
Bogiatzis said she has enjoyed workiug at the festival for the past 30 years, but her husband is retiring, so this will be her last.
Artemis Nemphos, treasurer for the festival, said it’s not just a fundraiser for the church, it’s a celebration of Greek culture.
“This is why we have the food and the dancing performances, it’s to share the culture with the public. Everybody is Greek for a day and we look forward to it,” said Nemphos, a Southington resident who teaches Greek dance.
She said the festival used to have cultural activities and exhibits, but they were discontinued because the church celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and there were too many other things happening, but she expects they will be back next year.
St. George draws parishioners from New Britain, Meriden, Wallingford, Cheshire, Southington, Middletown, and some from Bristol even though there is a Greek Orthodox church in that city, she said.
“We are Americans and yet we appreciate where we came from,” Nemphos said. “It’s what we call the melting pot, and we want to add to American life - to get the best of everything and make this America the greatest.”
The festival continues today noon to 10 p.m., at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 301 W. Main St. Admission is free and free parking is available at the church and on the street.
Greek music from the Melodia band will be offered from 5 to 10 p.m., Greek dancing at 5:30 p.m., and church tours from 3 to 6 p.m.
Vendors will be selling plants, jewelry and other items throughout.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-584-0501, ext. 7259, or at email@example.com.