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‘A Taste of Greece to Go’ under way

EVENT CO-CHAIRS — Rikki Kamarados and Nick Demitras are serving as co-chairs of “A Taste of Greece To Go,” which is Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s scaled-back version of the Greek Food Fest because of a lack of volunteers and COVID concerns. It is a pre-order-only fundraiser under way now through June 12 with pickups on June 16 and 17 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Patrons can order online at bit.ly/greek2go or www.holytrinitystb.org or call the church at 300 S. Fourth St., Steubenville, at (740) 282-9835. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — “A Taste of Greece to Go” is not the June food and fun festival area residents have come to expect and enjoy from their friends at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Steubenville.

But despite the Greek Food Festival’s scaled-back event offered in a different format, there’s still the opportunity to savor Greek food favorites, according to Rikki Kamarados, who is serving as event co-chair along with Nick Demitras.

“A Taste of Greece to Go” is a pre-order only fundraiser with orders being accepted now through June 12. Patrons can order online at bit.ly/greek2go or www.holytrinitystb.org or call the church at 300 S. Fourth St., Steubenville, at (740) 282-9835.

Pickup will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 16 and 17 with patrons instructed to enter behind the church in the bar room area.

The menu includes: Roasted chicken dinner with rice pilaf and green beans, $14; rice pilaf (rice steamed in butter and chicken broth, $4; green beans (fresh green beans stewed in a special tomato sauce), $4; pastitsio (layers of macaroni, grated cheese, and sauteed ground beef topped with a rich cream sauce and baked to a firm consistency) $8; spanakopita (baked layers of filo dough filled with spinach, an egg mixture and feta, cottage and grated cheeses), $3.50; Dolmades (lemon-scented grape leaves stuffed with a seasoned mixture of rice, meat and herbs), three for $3.50; gyro sandwich (slices of gyro — spiced beef, lamb and veal — served in pita bread, topped with onions, tomatoes and cucumber sauce), $9; baklava (layers of buttered filo, walnuts and cinnamon with honey syrup), $3; Koulourakia (a buttery twisted shortbread cookie), 12 for $8; and Kourambiedes (buttered cookies rolled in powdered sugar), $2.

So why no multiple-day festival with indoor and outdoor activities that marked its 35th anniversary last year?

“The big thing is we don’t have the personnel to run what we’ve had in the past. A big deal is still COVID because we have a big elderly community, and with the rise in numbers, they’re (church volunteers) scared to be coming down in closed quarters and working like they were before,” Kamarados said, noting 75 constitutes the average age of a festival volunteer.

“If you’re running everything that’s going on inside and outside, it’s probably 60 to 80 people because you have people in both kitchens, people running the pastries, you have people running the food lines and running the registers, and running the food line alone is 10 a shift at least. That’s 20 people just on the regular food line, and then you have the carryout area, and then you have gyros which has all those people, so it takes a lot of people,” Kamarados said of the volunteer base needed to make the Greek Food Fest happen.

“A lot of our volunteers are outside volunteers, too, but you have to rely on your parishioners to be your main people to tell people what to do and to run the areas, so that’s a big thing. We don’t have the people,” she said.

“We have had people the last two years who have had to cancel vacations because of COVID, and it just so happens because of the way their vacations are happening, it’s happenings when our Taste of Greece to Go is going to be,” she added in citing another factor having an impact on volunteer availability.

“Originally we talked about having a carryout, but having seating outside, but then we found out all these people aren’t going to be here, so who takes care of the seating outside? Who goes and cleans it? Who maintains it? We just don’t have enough personnel,” she emphasized.

The decision for the change this year came only recently.

“We just made this final decision just a few weeks ago, literally a few weeks ago because we were going to have outside seating, and do the thing inside, not have a band and then we found out we were going to have fewer numbers of personnel, so we decided we had to go with something just to at least get the food out, and say we’re still here, our food is still here, but we just can’t offer everything we have in the past,” Kamarados explained.

The festival helps raise money for the church.

“It’s not all about making money, but it’s getting out and saying hey we’re here, we’re a viable church and we still want to serve you as much as we can,” Kamarados added.

“We know we’re not going to get anywhere close to what we got in the past,” Kamarados said of festival revenue for the church.

“We do a lot of outreach in the community, and one of the big things we do every year is the Christmas dinner. The past two years we haven’t been able to do it the regular way, but the past year we had dinner and people walked in and got a dinner and left. We didn’t have any seating. Hopefully on Christmas day, we can actually have people eating in,” she said of what has involved as many as 500 to 600 meals.

Fewer volunteers means less food made, too, according to Kamarados, noting that instead of 12,000 grape leaves, it’s more like 5,000 to 6,000, for example.

“We feel really bad we can’t do it, but we just wanted to do something still,” she said, suggesting Historic Fort Steuben as an alternative place to enjoy a meal. “They can pick up lunch and go sit down at the fort. It’s gorgeous down there, so there are places they can go and still enjoy Steubenville.”

“We know people are going to be disappointed. We’re disappointed, but we’re just doing the best we can with what we can do,” she said. “We’re having our best sellers — the chicken dinners with our rice and beans — you can still get rice and beans a la carte. Gyros, we are having those. That is like our No. 1 seller during the festival.”

“We’re having all the biggest sellers the people identify with Greek. We’re still here. We want to show the community we’re here with our pastries and cooking. You can still get your Greek on, but not onsite,” she said, agreeing there is less “opa” to this year’s event.

“This is a decision the committee for the festival makes, the ones who are willing to step up and lead the way,” Kamarados said.

Next year things could be different.

“We hope we can be more ‘normal,” Kamarados said.

“We really hope next year when people get vacations they can work better with it next year, but no matter when you do it, you’re going to miss somebody (because of vacation conflict) but it was really hard this year, so next year, if COVID numbers are lower, they’ll feel more comfortable coming down and working, and we’ll have more personnel around. That’s the whole thing — it’s really been a tough year.”

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