Greek festival: Go for the food, enjoy the smiles

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Sophie Dubuc, 6, of Greene, gets a taste of spanakopita from her yaya (grandmother in Greek) Pam Snyder, of Greene during Friday night’s Greek Festival in Lewiston. While Sophie was game to try some of the authentic Greek dishes, she wasn’t interested in a second bite of the spanakopita.
Sophie Dubuc, 6, of Greene, gets a taste of spanakopita from her yaya (grandmother in Greek) Pam Snyder, of Greene during Friday night’s Greek Festival in Lewiston. While Sophie was game to try some of the authentic Greek dishes, she wasn’t interested in a second bite of the spanakopita.

LEWISTON — Enticing smells wafted from the grounds of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Friday afternoon as the two-day annual Lewiston-Auburn Greek Festival got underway.

Television food show star Anthony Bourdain might like it here.

The festival offers ethnic food, smiles and conversation, music and dancing surrounded by Greek flag colors of blue and white — all without flying overseas.

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The food preparation is overseen by Arthur Bernard, 57, who for 15 years worked at Marois Restaurant, and today is a chef in Portland.

Some of the food lineup:

• Athenian chicken, a crowd favorite, roasted with oregano, lemon and olive oil and other seasonings. “We always run out of the chicken,” Bernard said, showing off an individual serving of half a chicken. “It might as well be a buffet,” he said;

• Hearty gyros, vegetarian and meat, stuffed with vegetables, Greek cheese topped with tzatsiki sauce in a pita;

• Mousaka, layers of eggplant, potato and beef topped with bechamel sauce and pastry topping; and

• Spanakopita, spinach with feta cheese in layers of filo dough, flaky and crispy to the touch.

There’s more, shish kebabs, Greek salads that are popular with festivalgoers, said festival co-chairwoman Doreen Cote, plus rice and desserts such as baklava and kourambiethes, a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie called wedding cookies.

Co-chairman is Ray Goulet, 26, whose grandfather, John Mendros, years ago donated land for the church. “He was my biggest role model when I was little. He wanted to do right for everyone, especially this church. That’s why he became co-chairman, Goulet said. “I wanted to do something to give back.”

He grew up speaking Greek, his first language, and eating Greek food. “My favorite is mousaka,” he said.

The festival opened at 11 a.m. Friday.

“I’ve been impressed with the turnout so far,” Goulet said. “We’ve only had lunch so far. We did a lot of good work this year planning,” he said. “Everyone’s been volunteering and working as hard as they can to make everything work well. It’s been going more smoothly as in the past.”

In the kitchen, Toni Orestis, 92, of Marois’ Restaurant, prepared spinach spanakopita that soon would go into the oven. She’s a longtime church member and veteran volunteer.

People should come to the festival “because it’s an experience,” Orestis said. “It’s wonderful, friendly and warm. People will open their arms to you.”

Before she spoke, a woman walked by wearing a shirt that read, “The Greek have a word for everything: Opa!”

Opa means yay.

Like Goulet, Ann Robinson grew up speaking Greek. Her grandparents immigrated to Lewiston from Greece. “My grandmother only spoke Greek,” Robinson said. “I can remember being 3 years old and her teaching me to dance in the living room.”

The dance was the kalamatriano, the traditional Greek dance that will be danced at 6 p.m. Saturday under the festival tent.

“Did you see ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding?’ where they danced in a circle?” Robinson asked. The kalamatriano is that one.

The festival also offers Greek music, drinks, artifacts and items are for sale, including dishware and cookbooks. Of course, there’s baklava to go. 

The festival concludes at 9 p.m. Saturday.  

 

Crystal McIntyre, of Lewiston, prepares to serve an order of spanakopita to a customer Friday night at the Greek Festival in Lewiston.
Crystal McIntyre, of Lewiston, prepares to serve an order of spanakopita to a customer Friday night at the Greek Festival in Lewiston.

Lewiston-Auburn Greek Festival

Where: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 155 Hogan Road, Lewiston

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Activities: Food and music. Greek dancing under the tent, including the kalamatiano. Greek language: Opa means yay; yasou means hello; Thelo bira parakalo means I want a beer please.

FMI: https://lagreekfestival.com/

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