The Hippo


Oct 16, 2019








When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19.
Where: Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, 111 Island Pond Road, Manchester
What to expect: Lots and lots of Greek home cooking.

Latino Festival

When: Saturday, Aug. 18, from 11:50 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Veterans Park, 889 Elm St,, Manchester
What to expect: Latin American cuisine from across the continent and the Caribbean, a parade of flags and a way to support Latinos Unidos De New Hampshire.

When: Friday, Aug. 17, from 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 18, from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, from noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Catholic Church, 140 Mitchell St., Manchester
What to expect: Lebanese-style food, hookahs and backgammon for taste of Arabic cafe-culture, complete with traditional music played on the oud and tabla.

Southeast Asian Water Festival

When: Saturday, Aug. 18, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Lowell Heritage State Park Esplanade and Sampas Pavilion, 500 Pawtucket Blvd., Lowell, Mass.
What to expect: Long-boat races, Buddhist tradition and Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai fare and performances from warrior-monk Master Shi Yan Jun.

Mexican for lunch, Greek for dinner
Weekend festivals aim to transport foodies far away


This weekend, foodies in southern New Hampshire’s will be able to sampe a bonanza of traditional cuisines from faraway places.
Lebanese, Cambodian, Latino and Greek foods will be at the forefront of large festivals happening over the next several days. Often, the festivals benefit churches and organizations that are at the center of various ethnic communities. They serve as an inroad to a culture that is thriving far from its homeland.
Event cuisine is often provided by nearby restaurants that take time out from their storefronts, as well as local residents who are making their own recipes, passed down over generations.

Mahrajan, which is Arabic for “big party,” has been held annually in Manchester since the early ’70s, according to Rev. Thomas Steinmetz of the Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Catholic Church.
“I think there’s two things that define the event: people who are members of Middle Eastern families who know the food, music and culture and want to be there to enjoy it, and the people who are outside that culture, as well. For them, it’s an opportunity to come and experience Lebanese food and an opportunity to participate in the culture.”
Festivalgoers have been steadily increasing for the past several years, causing the church to extend the celebration over three days last year. The kitchen is now open Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, serving a menu of lamb, beef and chicken kabobs, falafel, tabbouleh and traditional Middle Eastern pastries.
New to the menu this year is Warak Arish, an appetizer of green grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice and then cooked in a lemon broth and served with Lebanese-style yogurt and bread.
In addition to food, traditions of Middle Eastern cafe culture are available, as well. Hookahs — classic smoking instruments that use charcoal to burn tobacco — are available for rent; they are used in Middle Eastern cafes and homes, both as décor and to provide relaxation for guests.
Backgammon boards are popular at the festival, too. The game’s creation dates nearly 5,000 years and has been played all over the world for centuries.
DJ Kibar Moussoba will emcee Mahrajan, playing popular Arabic and American favorites. The local resident is a native of Beirut, Lebanon, and has been a DJ since high school.
More music will be provided by musician Mitchell Kaltsunas, whose Greek-Egyptian-Syrian heritage attracted him to the oud and tabla, traditional Arabic instruments, after he first learned the guitar. He will perform on Saturday and Sunday evening.
Steinmetz said whether people come for the music and dancing or food and gifts, Mahrajan adds to the church’s unique presence in the community. 
Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite is the only multi-Catholic church in New Hampshire, he said, and visitors are encouraged not only to celebrate the surrounding community, but to tour the building. Proceeds from vendors raise funds for the church, which Steinmetz said is a kind of rallying point for local Middle Easterners and their friends.
“They are all interrelated,” Steinmetz said of the church, the community and the celebration. “We want to showcase the culture, the sights, sounds and tastes of Lebanese culture, and it is a great way to do it.”

Latino Festival
Like Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite, the Latinos Unidos De New Hampshire serves as a rallying point. Since 2000, the Latino Festival in Veterans Park in Manchester has been its biggest event of the year because it exemplifies its mission: to celebrate cultural awareness of the Latino community.
LUDNH is an all-volunteer nonprofit group, which hosts the festival as a fundraising opportunity to give higher education scholarships to Latino youth and a demonstration of the Latin American Cultures, according to LUDNH President Alejandro Urrutia. Through the festival, LUDNH has given more than $170,000 in scholarships to deserving Latino youth, he said.
“To be part of Latinos Unidos is a great experience and an opportunity to share this experience with many extraordinary and generous people,” Urrutia said.
The cuisine encompasses the best of Central and South American kitchens in the area.
“Several restaurants get involved, bringing Mexican food, Colombian dishes, Central American delicacies like pupusas from El Salvador, and delicious rice-based plates and desserts from the Latin countries of the Caribbean like Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico,” he said.
Pupusas are tortillas that are made from hominy, then filled with pork, re-fried beans and cheese, a different take on the Mexican gordita. A signature Puerto Rican dish, arroz con gandules is a rice-based dish mixed with pigeon peas and pork, then hit with an array of seasonings. There will be plantano frito, plantains fried in oil, as well as juices made from fresh fruit. For a Caribbean take on a calzone, try pasteles.
Tropical and Latin religious music will be featured this year, Urrutia said, ranging from reggaeton, salsa, merengue, urbano, bachata and Mexican and Central American folk music. All of the music will be interpreted by Marianela and her Zumba dance show.
Vendors, Urrutia said, look to introduce their business and products to the community at large.
“The festival attracts Latinos and non-Latinos in a similar way, in one place,” he said. “It’s great for local chefs and artisans to get their stuff out there.”

Water Festival
For a crash-course in Southeast Asia, there is the Southeast Asian Water Festival, in Lowell, Mass., with its deep Buddhist ties and nationwide draw.
This renowned cultural event mirrors water festivals are held annually in the capital cities of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, where people gather to thank the spirit of the water, vital for life as a provider of agriculture, food and spirituality.
Event chairwoman Molyka Tieng said the festival means a lot to her and others as a place for Southeast Asians to showcase their talents through music, food or religion.
“It’s a place where younger generations can see and hear stories of southeast traditions and see traditional dance performances and see traditional long boats race as they do in Southeast Asia,” she said. “A lot of the younger people in our community have never set foot into a temple, and therefore have never spoken to a monk. It’s nice to see that happen at the festival and see others experience the different religions that make up our community.”
Food, crafts, and music and dance performances populate the banks of the Merrimack River, and long-boat races are held on the water throughout the day.
Teams bring colorful, handmade boats that can be as long at 60 feet and carry more than 20 rowers. Races take on a spiritual tone. Rowers work to the beat of a drummer, who also rides on board, in an effort to create oneness. Before race time, the boats are blessed by monks.
Preserving these traditions is important for closing generational gaps in the local community, Tieng said.
“We are showing older generations that the community has not forgotten about them and the struggles they have made when they left their own countries,” she said.
Congregating around food starts conversations, Tieng said. With the festival’s 60,000-plus regular attendance, that makes for good talk. Vendors from Cambodia, Thailand and Laos sell similar foods, which are prepared in different ways.
Papaya salad is a common example, which is made differently across Southeast Asia. Tieng said the Water Festival began hosting a papaya salad contest three years ago to get vendors more involved in the festival.
Special this year is Master Shi Yan Jun, a 34th-generation warrior monk from China’s legendary Shaolin Temple. Shi Yan Jun began his training in tai chi, kung fu, qin na and sanda at age 14. He will be a featured performer at the festival, demonstrating his kung fu and weapon skills, and holding tai chi workshops Aug. 20-24 at Mill No. 5, 250 Jackson St. Mauricio Cordero, director of Mill No. 5, says this is a rare opportunity to get this much individual attention from one of the top martial artists in the world.
“It’s like studying physics with Einstein,” he said in a press release.
Tai chi involves concentration, visualization and dancelike movements; it is an ancient Chinese martial art used to enhance mental clarity, balance and circulation.
For the last seven years, Shi Yan Jun has been teaching at the France Shaolin Academy in Tours, a school he founded and now lives and works at. His Lowell classes will focus on healing and stress reduction, according to Cordero, and are open to all ages and ability levels.
For class pricing, reservations and times, visit or contact Cordero at or 781-436-2738.
Tieng says non-Asians from all over the country visit, too, and enjoy seeing the races, the dances and eating different foods, as well as purchasing items from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand that are hard to find elsewhere.
1997 was the first year the festival was held, and it began attracting more and more people each year. By 2002, Lowell’s Southeast Asian community formed a nonprofit based around the event.
Another large festival is GreekFest, a celebration of all things Greek held at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester. The parish chefs will make an array of choices for lunch and dinner including barbecued lamb, roast chicken, meatballs, grape leaves, souvlaki, rice pudding and more.
Pastitsio is a baked pasta dish resembling lasagna, which is filled with ground beef, veal or lamb, tomatoes, bechamel sauce and spices will be served. A popular Greek favorite are loukoumathes, which are deep-fried dough pastries, often soaked in syrup or honey.
Traditional pastries including finikia, and kourambiethes will also be available, as well as ice cream sundaes made with baklava or loukoumathes.
Greek music will be provided by DJ Meleti all weekend, and vendors will sell a variety of Greek ethnic and religious jewelry, gifts and crafts.
GreekFest also features a multi-prize raffle, penny sale, activities for children and tours of the church.

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