Taste buds rejoice as Greek Festival opens in Steubenville

A TASTE OF GREECE — Holy Trinity’s Despina Vurnis stirs a pot of lamb stew, one of the many ethnic specialties available during this week’s Greek Festival. The festival, which runs through Friday, is being held at the church, 300 S. Fourth St. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Susan Gossett stood in front of a table lined with trays of spanikopita, galatobouriko and katiafi, looking at the growing mound of Greek cookies she’d picked out.

“You know what’s funny?” she said to the woman waiting on her with a laugh. “I usually lose weight (festival) week. I don’t know why!”

Tuesday was opening day of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Greek Festival, a four-day celebration of the food, music and the culture of Greece.

The doors officially opened at 11 a.m., though patrons were milling around even before that.

Gossett, a Wintersville resident, said you can’t beat the amazing array of foods the church’s members prepare especially for the festival.

“I come every year,” she said. “Usually every day around 11 a.m. when they open.”

The Rev. Nicholas Halkias said the festival always attracts a crowd.

“The food is incredible, let’s just be honest,” he said. “But also, it’s a huge community event and over the years, people have found it to be a good place to gather and see their friends, just have a good time.”

Trinity’s Rana Mahfood describes it as “parea.”

“That’s a Greek word, it means gathering of friends,” she said. “It’s a time for celebration. People come together, literally to celebrate life. They enjoy the Greek music, they enjoy the Greek food, they enjoy the Greek fellowship.”

Mahfood, a Steubenville resident, said the festival is so successful “because we enjoy it so much, we enjoy doing it.”

Vasso Espinosa, the festival’s official greeter, said Greeks by nature are “very hospitable. We love to serve, we love to share our culture.”

“We like to embrace (it),” she said. “From itty-bitty babies until the day we die, we’re taught God first, family second and then yourself. That’s what we’re taught.”

“I know people who save their money to come,” she added. “We’ve had families plan vacations so they can come home and see their family.”

John Pate, a Weirton resident, brought a bag filled with his own containers so there would be no food spills on the way home. “Plus I won’t get into it on the way home,” he said.

“Some of it you can freeze, so I’ll order two of everything,” he added.

Sandy Walker, a Steubenville resident, said she makes her shopping list ahead of time.

“I’ve been coming for probably 15 years or more,” she said. “I always come with a list.”

Rikki Kamarados’s day job is running her family’s Downtown Bakery. When the festival rolls around, she’s in charge of ordering supplies.

“I have spreadsheets for everything,” Kamarados said. “We use over 1,200 pounds of lamb for stew and legs of lamb, that’s not including the gyro meat. Then there’s all the chicken and fish, too.”

Sponsors of this year’s festival, which continues daily through Friday, are Eastern Gateway Community College and Theo Yianni’s.

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