Now in it’s 20th year, the Fayetteville Greek Festival is right around the corner. On Sept. 10-12, the congregation of Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church is opening wide the doors of their church and inviting the community to share, once more, in a celebration of their culture, their faith and the friendship they have with the people of Fayetteville.
What better way to catch a glimpse of the collective spirit of a people than to break bread with them and sample the food and beverages of their homeland, dance to their native music and hear of the faith that binds them as a community?
“We are in an economy where you can’t get to the islands, you can’t get to Greece quite so easily,” said advertising chairman and pastor’s wife, Kelly Papagikos. “Of course, our military is in a rare position to get to these places that we can only see in pictures — we bring a part of that to you here. We bring the ethnicity, we bring the religion, the feeling that you are in Greece, right here to the Greek Festival.”
For Father Alex Papagikos, there are several things that he would like to see the event showcase. At the top of the list is the church, which is such a huge part of the community, its traditions and culture.
“They remind us of our or roots and where we come from,” said Father Papagikos, of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, of the church members who resettled here from Greece. “Many of them brought their faith with them from overseas, and we are always grateful for that. That is why it (the Greek Festival) is an all encompassing kind of experience. We highlight the food, the dancing, but the religious as well.”
The religious portion of the event will include church tours led by Father Papagikos and an open door policy that encourages everyone to come into the sanctuary and learn what the Greek Orthodox Church is all about. He will explain the Greek Orthodox faith, its associated iconography as well as answer any questions people may have. Religious literature will also be available for purchase.
“First and foremost, it is our religious background we are the proudest of in reaching out to the community,” said Papagikos. “We welcome anyone to come and worship with us. We always include both the religious and the cultural since they are so intimately connected.”
Kelly added that tradition plays a huge role in the local Greek culture, keeping alive memories and culture from the old country that they can then share with the local community.
“I think that here in America we hold our traditions so much more dear than they do in other places. I know that the families here are like that — tradition is a huge thing. They never forget their roots. The members of the Greek community are truly so friendly and they are people that want to share their traditions — not because ‘I am Greek’ but because of their warm personalities.”
With that in mind, there will be a new exhibit this year showcasing what a typical Greek home might look like.
“We are going to show what a traditional Greek house looks like in the village,” said Kelly. “The linens they use, the foods that they might have in the pantry, the way that they live today. We’ll have the dried flowers, and put some figs out since figs are synonymous with Greece. Homes in Greece, because of the weather, are just so floral, so beautiful! So, we are going to bring all the aesthetics of Greece to everyone this year.”
Of course there will be all of the favorites that festival-goers have come to anticipate with great relish each year, too. Traditional fare will be available for purchase — everything from snacks to dinners of gyros, souvlaki, spanikopita and Greek salads, as well as beverages.
The coffee shop will serve Greek and American coffee. There will be a Greek grocery store with items for sale, and even a cooking class.
Fayetteville residents wait in mouthwatering anticipation for the Greek Festival to get their fill of the pastries — fresh, homemade, handmade, delicious pastries. While Baklava, phyllo dough layered with butter, nuts, honey and spices, is a definite favorite, look for other yummy treats like Kourambiedes — the traditional wedding cookie rolled in powdered sugar; Kataife — a shredded wheat phyllo dough with nuts and syrup; and Galaktoboureko — custard pie wrapped in phyllo dough.
The music and dancing are another favorite. This year there will be four troupes from the church demonstrating the dances of the isles dressed in native costumes. Before the music ends it is not unusual for the audience to join in the fun, clapping and dancing hand-in-hand with the congregation. Zyphoros, a Greek band from Baltimore, will provide the music throughout the weekend.
Vendors carrying cultural items as well as jewelry and art will be on site, offering various items for purchase.
Once you are at the festival and have absorbed every last ounce of the culture, sampled the food and drink, danced with the congregation and had a great time in the process, don’t forget to buy a raffle ticket or two on your way out. You may just win a chance to visit the Greek Isles, as the grand prize is two plane tickets from the Raleigh-Durham Airport to Greece.
This year the weekend kicks off at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church at 614 Oakridge Ave. at 5 p.m. on Friday and festivities run until 10 p.m. Saturday the hours are 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., and Sunday 12 - 6 p.m. For more information, visit the website at www.stsch. nc.goarch.org/GreekFestival or call the church at 484-8925 or 484- 2010.