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Greek Festival opens in Port Jefferson
Hayk Rakidjian is of Armenian descent, but the Mount Sinai resident's love of dancing and ties to Greek family members and friends always brings him to the annual Greek Festival, hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.
"Every year my Greek friends and I get together to come to the festival and dance," said Rakidjian at the Thursday night kickoff of the festival, which runs through Sunday and is held on the church grounds at 430 Sheep Pasture Rd., Port Jefferson.
Pastor Demetrios Calogredes, of Seaford, explained that the festival celebrates the ascension to heaven of the Virgin Mary, the church's patron saint. The $2 admission fee and other festival proceeds will go toward funding church programs and ministries.
"It fosters a high level of community spirit and camaraderie because family is the church and church is family,” Calogredes said of the festival. “And all the families of the church come out and celebrate."
Calogredes expects thousands of people to attend the weekend-long event. Part of its appeal is the fair’s raffle, which has 285 prizes, including big-ticket items like cars, a boat and a cruise.
Other festival highlights include rides and games for children, vendors selling jewelry and Greek-themed products, live music by the band The Aegean Connection, Friday and Saturday night fireworks and dances performed by children of the church, and a bakaliko, or Greek grocery store, run by Calogredes' wife, Terry.
The bakaliko stand features imported Greek products such as Greek chocolate, bread, tea, a brand of honey called Monastiri from the island of Crete, and feta cheese. "A lot of stores sell feta cheese, but it's not real Greek cheese," said Terry Calogredes, who said she sells the products to raise funds for the church.
Greek delicacies cooked by Stavros Karakatsanis of Miller Place, Kostas Xikis of Selden and additional volunteers from the church, are available. Xikis, a chef by trade, makes patsitsio -- a form of baked ziti -- and moussaka. Spanakopita, another Greek specialty, is also available.
"I think this festival is great because it carries on the Greek tradition," said Stacy Kantor, of East Patchogue. "It's an opportunity for Greeks to mingle, get up and dance to Greek music."
The Greek Festival continues Friday from 5-11 p.m., Saturday from 1-11 p.m. and Sunday from 1-10 p.m. For more information, call 631-473-0829 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above: Port Jefferson resident Nicole Richter and her daughter, Lily, try out a slide at the annual Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson. (Aug. 23, 2012)