Spend the weekend immersed in Greek cuisine and culture at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church’s Greek Fest, an event full of Greek music, fine jewelry and plenty of food.
“It’s a big ol’ Greek party,” Costas Georgopoulos, festival chairperson, said in a phone interview.
He’s served as chairperson for the past 23 years and has seen the food festival fundraiser evolve over the years.
“It started [in] about 1991 when we moved to our new site in Manchester,” he said. “It started off small until people got to know the name and the location and our parish, and it just grew over the years. We [currently] average about 8,000 people.”
Guests come from southern New Hampshire, Massachusetts and other parts of New England to enjoy the two-day festival filled with traditional Greek cuisine favorites.
“We have our traditional Greek barbecue lamb, we have our stuffed grape leaves, we have stuffed Greek peppers,” Georgopoulos said.
The menu of authentic dishes hasn’t changed much in recent years, since the early years of the festival were spent building it up.
“As the years have passed by we’ve grown our menu, [but] I think the menu we have now is the menu we have and want to keep,” he said.
Attendee input and the abilities of the food prep volunteers were combined to create the menu, which includes the ever-popular baklava, galaktoboureko (a Greek custard pie he said is not often found at other festivals), loukoumades (fried dough balls) and gyros served right off the rotisserie.
“You smell them right when you come into the tent,” he said.
The food and festival activities are all held under a tent on the church’s grounds, which Georgopoulos said gives it “more of a festival feel.” Served a la carte or as a meal, guests can purchase food to eat at the church or take it to go.
Unlike many food festivals in the area, the food preparation for Greek Fest only begins a few days before the event.
“It starts the week of because we don’t like to freeze things so we make everything fresh,” he said.
Starting the Sunday before, volunteers head to the church’s full commercial kitchen and cook nonstop until the end of the festival.
With a number of other Greek food festivals in the area throughout the summer, Georgopoulos said he doesn’t feel a sense of competition between the churches to draw in more guests, but instead sees it as an opportunity to keep highlighting the Greek culture and tradition.
The two-day festival features live music from Ta Tethia on Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m., a DJ throughout both days, a penny sale and a Greek market with jewelry, crafts, ethnic and religious items.
“For us, we just do the best we can and really want to showcase our tradition and our culture and we’re very supportive of the other churches because it’s our culture,” he said. “We don’t want to compete with any of them.”
They accomplish their goals by coordinating to spread out the festivals throughout the season, ensuring that the community can continue to enjoy Greek food and festivities.