July 13, 2008

Monessen Greek Festival is Treat for All Ages

By Leann Junker, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.

Jul. 13--Good food, lively dancing and 30 years of memories will be celebrated during the annual Greek Food Festival.

Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 20 at St. Spyridon Church, located off Reeves Avenue in Monessen.

Mary Elenitsas, publicity chairman, promises all the food is homemade.

"It's all prepared here," she said, sitting in the spacious banquet facility.

She emphasized Greek food is always enjoyed best with friends, and that should be easy to do since the annual event attracts thousands of visitors.

Last year, supplies dwindled on the last day of the festival, so in response, the organizers are preparing for even more guests.

They are busy in the kitchen making gyros, baked chicken-a-la-Grec, moussaka (eggplant casserole), souzoukakia (Greek meatballs simmered in tomato-wine sauce), pastichio (baked macaroni, cheese, seasoned with ground beef, topped with creamy cheese sauce), stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita (spinach in filo dough), yvesti (pasta with vegetables), stuffed vegetables, green beans ala Grec and Greek salad with feta cheese.

Special food selections on Friday will include: fish sandwiches, French fries, kalamari (squid circles) and smelts.

New this year will be psari plaki (Greek-style baked cod) on Friday and braised lamb shanks to be served on Saturday and Sunday.

And for dessert, the menu features baklava, galatoboureko (filo pastry filled with custard), diples (delicate deep fried pastries dipped in honey), kataife (shredded filo laced with walnuts and dipped in honey, koulourakia (buttery Greek cookie), finika (moist oval-shaped cookie dipped in honey), kourambiethes (Greek holiday cookies topped with powdered sugar), hot loukoumades (light, fluffy honey puffs served with warm syrup and cinnamon), Greek rice pudding and baklava sundaes.

Bill Manus, president of the church council, said some people buy the food by the trays to take home and freeze for later.

Manus and Elenitsas were both on hand during the first festival held back in 1978.

That first year the festival attracted mostly church members and their friends. Nowadays, people come from all over the Mon Valley and the region.

In addition to the food, festival-goers enjoy entertainment. The Odyssey Grecian Dancers will perform Friday night and the St. Spyridon Youth Group will perform nightly.

A boutique is also featured including items such as vaces, icons, books, backpacks, aprons and cookbooks.

Admission and parking are free, Elenitsas said.

"It's a treat for people of all ages," she added.


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