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Greek Festival in Fitchburg hails proud traditions.

Byline: Lynne Klaft

FITCHBURG -- Everyone in the congregation worked for weeks getting ready for the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's 100th anniversary Greek Festival on Saturday -- cooking, making batches of secret recipe sauce for the souvlaki, and baking koulourakia cookies, rice pudding and honey cakes.

Three generations of 14-year-old Alethia Grippo's family were on hand to make the celebration a special one this year.

"We cooked a lot of food in the past week! Spanakopita is one of my favorites, it has spinach, a cheese topping and it's baked. Really, really good! People tell us that they come just for that, our food is so good. We spent hours and hours on the kebabs alone,'' said Alethia, who lives just up the street from the church.

"That's my grandmother Zoie (Mandelas of Fitchburg) and she's making loukoumades. Those are like fried dough, but has yogurt in it. If you go to Worcester's festival, those are round, but ours are natural,'' said Alethia.

Mrs. Mandelas and Joanne Kazogles of Leominster were hard put to keep up with the demand for the honey balls, which were made on the spot.

"Try some, go ahead, these are all homemade,'' said Mrs. Kazogles as she dipped the finished loukoumades in the honey and sesame sauce. Mike Camosse of Oxford, who was visiting his friends from Fitchburg and was a first-time festival-goer did so and proclaimed them, "Very good!''

Perry Michaelides of Fitchburg was helping the ladies and said his grandfather was the first full-time priest for Holy Trinity. He said that there are about 200 members and 300 to 400 families that are part of the church. "I came here to Fitchburg from Cyprus when I was 9,'' he added.

The food line was long, as were the menu choices -- three kinds of souvlaki (kebabs, souvlaki means "on a stick''), pastitsio (a Greek lasagna), moussaka (a layered casserole of eggplant, potatoes, ground beef and bechamel sauce), Greek-style rice pilaf, green beans in a special sauce, loukuniso (a Greek sausage, citrus flavored), and Alethia's favorite, spanakopita.

Ellen Samares of Lunenburg was at the taverna sampling 40 proof ouzo.

"It's licorice, very strong, but I'm an old-time Greek girl. Oh boy, it feels like steam is coming from my nose!'' she said as she downed a shot glassful.

The dessert booth was busy, too -- Christmas cookies, melomakasona made with walnuts and orange dipped in honey, honey cakes of all kinds, baklava, milfay, powdered sugar-covered kouzabiethe cookies and galoctobouzico rice pudding.

The Rev. Paul C. Bebis took time out from serving in the food line to giving tours of the church to interested festival folk.

Joseph and Nancy Richard of Fitchburg said they wanted to see the inside of the church and to hear about its history.

Rev. Bebis explained all the parts of the church, from the narthex to the sanctuary.

"This building was built in 1922, but the church was established 100 years ago. It is very similar to churches you see in Greece. The altars always face eastward. We have prayer books in Greek and English and most of our service is now in English. We welcome everyone to attend, but we do have a closed communion. There are 600 churches in the US and about 4 million members,'' he said.

The festival also featured the church's own Floga (the flame) dancers, young people who were taught tradi tional and modern folk dancing by church members, dressed in costumes that represented different communities and areas of Greece. People threw dollar bills at the dancers, which is a tradition during festivals. The money is usually given to the band who accompanies them.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Klaft, Lynne
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 21, 2014
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