LEWISTON — It's about more than food, you know. There's dancing and drinking and socializing. There's singing and books and artifacts. There are all kinds of things.
But, OK. Eating is a big part of it.
"Oh, yes," Georgia Chomas said. "The food is very popular. Like this spinach pie. People love it."
Good thing. Food is everywhere at the Greek Festival. Goat meat frying on the grill, Athenian roasted chickens, moussaka, souvlaki, pastisio. Not to mention the desserts and Greek coffee.
It's wall to wall and tent to tent at the festival at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church on Hogan Road. For the next few days, thousands are expected to turn out. They'll stuff themselves full but they'll still dance when it's time.
"You've got to dance," David Rivet, chairman of the event, said. "How else are you going to work off all that food?"
The professional cooks are down in a basement, preparing one dish after another. These are restaurant owners and former chefs who do things old school. The Greek way. The right way.
"It keeps the tradition going," Rivet said. "It shows the younger generation how to make these meals."
Outside, working with 200 pounds of lamb meat, more professionals are at work, slaving over hot grills, preparing gyros and shish kabob that has been marinating for two weeks. They are professionals, yes. But not necessarily professional chefs.
"We don't have any prima donnas over here," Rivet said.
Two doctors, a business owner, a lawyer and a career military man are working the grill. Is it any wonder why Carlo Gammaitoni is so proficient with the culinary implements? For his day job, he's a trauma surgeon at Central Maine Medical Center. His wife, Stella, is at another table dishing out roast chicken and spinach pie.
By 6 p.m., there are hundreds at the festival. Cars are jammed all over the front lawn and lined down the road. It looks about as busy as you can get, but the organizers of the festival expect much more.
"This is small," Chomas said. "This is just our first run."
Three generations of Greeks are standing at a table making baklava. One of them is Ray Goulet, a 20-year-old college student. When he's not slapping together pastries, Goulet is somewhat famed for his ability to read coffee drippings. He does so for the reporter, insisting that they step off church grounds first. Inspecting the coffee drippings and grounds, he predicts bad luck is on its way out for the reporter and money is on the way in.
Chomas finishes her cup — Greek coffee is very strong, like an espresso — and hands it over to Goulet for a reading.
"Tell me," she said, "that there's a tall, dark, Greek stranger in there for me."
No, but there are two trips she can look forward to and better still, Goulet sees an eagle.
"I don't quite remember what that means," he said. "But it's very, very good."
The festival continues Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Though crowds are expected to remain heavy, organizers don't expect to run out of food. It's happened before so they made sure to order plenty.
"For the next few days," Rivet said, "this is the best restaurant in town."
Thank you: ef-ha-ree-STO
You're welcome: pa-ra-ka-LO
How are you?: TEE-KA-iil-es?
Good morning: ka-lee-ME-ra
Good afternoon: ka-lee-SPE-ra