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Photo by Patrick Donachie
Volunteers take a momentary break from cooking during the St. Nicholas Greek Food Festival held in Flushing.
By Patrick Donachie

The Church of St. Nicholas in Flushing celebrated its 45th annual Greek Festival last weekend, offering an array of Greek delicacies as well as fun activities for children.

The food tents were set up on the parking lot of the church property at 196-10 Northern Blvd. from Friday through Sunday. During Saturday afternoon, volunteers huddled over grills preparing marinated souvlaki for attendees, while across the lot other volunteers prepared Styrofoam cartons of loukoumades, balls of dough glazed with honey and a hint of powdered sugar.

Father Paul Palesty said the parish was celebrating its 60th year in the Flushing location, and it has become one of the largest Greek churches in the world. The parish runs a preschool, day school and afternoon school with about 1,000 total students involved.

“We get phone calls in June and July. People really look forward to this,” Palesty said about the community’s excitement. “People see this big dome, but now they get to see inside of it, and we can introduce our faith and culture to the rest of the community.”

Festival chairman Soteris Georgiou sped from station to station, ensuring that things were running smoothly. Dodging chefs carrying spiked meat ready for the grill, he said the festival was the most significant fund-raising event the church undertook each year, supporting parish maintenance and educational programs.

His family had a long time relationship with the parish. His grandparents had met through attending the church, which he had attended himself since he was a child. He has been the festival chairman for 11 years.

“My kids work, my wife and friends come,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”

Marisa Dimitrakopolous, a member of the school’s PTA, helped to run a table selling traditional Greek pastries and desserts. She said the line for the loukoumades could stretch outside the property during the festival’s busiest time on Saturday evening. On the table was a collection of backlava, kataifi and karidopitas, which is a walnut sponge cake touched with syrup.

When asked about the preponderance of walnuts in the dishes, she laughed. “It’s part of that healthy Mediterranean diet!”

In the basement of the church, Gloria Sfiroudis supervised a flea market, which she had done for the past 15 years. Like the rest of the festival, the profits from the flea market went to the parish. Everything in the market that goes unsold is donated to an organization that specializes in assisting disabled veterans, Sfurioudis said.

The complexity of the festival made it a substantial undertaking, but everyone involved was already looking forward to the 46th annual event next year.

“As soon as we finish,” Palesty said with a laugh, “we start getting prepared for the next one.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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