St. George throws a party (with baklava) and invites 30,000 people
By Angel Roy firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the Anagennesis Ladies Societyhave been busy in the kitchen of the St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manchester, preparing 40 pans of pastichio — a traditional Greek lasagna-like dish made with hamburger and a cream sauce — or endless trays of pastry for the upcoming Glendi celebration.
“We make 40 pans, but we always run out of it,” said Kelly Urban, president of the ladies’ society.
The ladies’ society began baking Grecian desserts for the upcoming event a couple of months ago, their goods stored in the church’s walk-in freezers, Urban said.
Among the desserts that will line the tables under the pastry tent at the event will be finikia (cookies stuffed with date nuts and filled with honey), loukoumades (fried dough the size of a doughnut hole, served hot and topped with honey or cinnamon) and baklava (layered phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup).
“That’s one thing that’s great about marrying somebody of Greek culture,” said Dee Boisvert, church president. “The food is spectacular, the desserts. I don’t believe there is a Greek dessert that I do not like.”
The Greek dishes and desserts have become a major draw of the annual three-day celebration held by the church, an event that allows its parishioners to share their Greek heritage with the Manchester community. It also serves as a fundraiser for the church.
“It is a cultural event that promotes and enlightens the community regarding Greek heritage and the Orthodox religion…. It just puts our best food forward into the community,” Urban said.
Glendi, Boisvert said, grew from the church’s Fall Harvest Festival, a one-day celebration that he said had not taken off as a community event.
“Then the people back then, guys like [former church president] George Copadis and other folks said ‘Let’s do a weekend festival and we’ll call it Glendi,’” Boisvert said.
Now, more than 30 years later, an estimated 30,000 people attend Glendi, which means “party” in Greek, Boisvert said.
“This is old hat for some. New hat for other,” Urban said. “It is just a wonderful annual tradition.”
This year’s Glendi celebration will kick off Friday, Sept. 17, at 11 a.m., with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. The opening ceremony will include a raising of flags from both the United States and Greece and likely a performance by a Massachusetts group dressed as Evzones — members of the Greek Army.
Clowns from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which will be in town Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, may also make an appearance during the opening ceremony, Boisvert said.
Providing musical entertainment for the event, a Greek band will play Friday night and a DJ Saturday.
“The DJ is Greek, so he is going to play a wide variety of different types of music,” Boisvert said. “Each region of Greece has its own kind of music, so he will play a little bit of everything to satisfy everybody’s taste.”
Entertainment for children will include seven amusement rides, four game booths and an inflatable slide, Boisvert said.
Older parishioners, Urban said, play a role in the event by crocheting and knitting items at weekly workshops to be sold at Glendi.
To make the event feel more Grecian, a 10-foot by 25-foot banner of the Acropolis will be hung in the community center and a Greek landscape scene hung near a Kafeneo — a Greek coffee shop — that will be set up to look like an outdoor café.
Additional banners representing historic Greek spots will adorn the walls at the event.
“It has been the same routine for the last 30 years — not much has changed,” Boisvert said. “I want to try to give a sense to everybody that comes to Glendi, that feeling that they went to Greece without having to step on an airplane.”
Church tours showcasing the cathedral will be given during the celebration but will be different than those of years past.
“We made some changes so that people will learn considerably more about us,” said Rev. Andrew Maharales, who will give a presentation before each tour.
Previous Glendi tours, Maharales said, allowed event goers to walk through the church on their own, with an attendant available to answer questions. This year after his presentation, Maharales will give visitors an opportunity to ask questions directly to him about the 43-year-old cathedral.
“We have quite a history here,” he said.
The blue and white church, Boisvert said, has a “kind of a unique architecture for this part of the country.”
“People always, always wonder what it looks like on the inside,” Boisvert said. “This will give them an opportunity to see it.”
New to the event this year will be a taverna — a Greek bar — offering Mythos beer and a variety of Greek wines.
“It’s just to promote something else that’s Greek … We are always trying to add something different and tweak it every year,” Urban said.
An appetizer plate will also be offered in the taverna. On the plate will be loukanico (a Greek pork sausage), feta cheese, Greek olives, tzatziki (a traditional Greek yogurt with cucumber and garlic), hummus, tabouli and pita chips.
“Glendi is probably one of the times people forget all about their diets and say that they will start on Monday,” Boisvert said.
“They come to Glendi because they want to enjoy all the pastries and the great food we have to offer here,” Boisvert said. “That is why I think people are likely to return. Any restaurant is successful if it always has consistency…. You always get that consistent food at Glendi. Even if you came here 25 years ago and bought a lamb shank, this year it is going to taste the same.”
Boisvert praised the “tremendous group” of volunteers behind Glendi.
“It’s the support and the dedication that the people in our community have given to Glendi that makes the event what it is,” Boisvert said. “Without that, we really don’t have anything.”
Additional Glendi parking will be available at McDonough Elementary School and Derryfield Park in Manchester, with a free shuttle running during the event Friday and Saturday only.