Hippo Manchester
September 8, 2005

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The art and craft of Glendi

It’s the product of a dozen women and thousands of hours of labor

By Michelle Saturley

Glendi, set for Sept. 16-17 here, isn’t all about the food.

It’s hard to believe, especially when you’re standing in line under that big white tent in front of St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Hanover Street, drooling at the prospect of a heaping serving of lamb and meatballs, but it’s true. After you’ve feasted your mouth, take a walk into the Church’s recreation room and feast your eyes — on the thousands of handmade arts, crafts and artifacts.

The work on these pieces is a year-round affair, in the basement of St. George Greek Orthodox Church. The ladies of the Tuesday workshop at St. George have spent thousands of hours working on theses items, beginning literally the day after last year’s Glendi. Most of the women are past 80 years old, but each Tuesday, they meet to plan, design, knit, crochet, sew and socialize.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a fun atmosphere,” said Sophie Toher, one of the women on the craft committee. “We celebrate each other’s birthdays, we keep each other going.”

The results of these weekly meetings are visible each September: beautiful afghans, quilts, pillows, jewelry, wreaths, floral arrangements, clothing and toys, either for sale or donated as part of Glendi’s fundraising raffles.

Bea Varkas, Mel Schumenan and Dora Macaronas are three of the women who have been creating crafts for Glendi since the beginning. Varkas keeps a massive volume of photos albums chronicling the work from year to year that goes back to the very first Glendi.

“That’s Bessie Manolis; she makes the traditional Greek aprons that we sell every year,” Varkas said, pointing to a photo. “Hundreds of them she makes, all by herself.”

She points to a photo of Mabel Covatis. Every year, Mabel makes a stunning traditional afghan that’s raffled off in one of the most popular and highly coveted raffles of the entire festival. “She outdoes herself every year. I don’t know how she does it.”

She holds out a photo of a petite woman, hugging a giant plush Dalmatian. “That’s Alice Lylis; she makes a whole family of stuffed animal dogs to raffle every year. All the kids want to take that home.”

Her voice grows sad at the sight of a group photo. “That’s Dora. She is one of the founders. She’s in a nursing home now. We miss her.”

The ladies hope that the younger generation of women at the church will soon be able to pick up their knitting needles and continue this tradition.

“It’s a different world than when these women started this tradition,” said Kelly Urban, a younger church member who helps organize the craft sale. “A lot of women in the church are working mothers; their kids are involved in so many activities after school. It makes it difficult for them. But I hope they see the value in keeping this alive. It’s important.”

So, this year, after you’ve stuffed yourself on Spanakopeta, come on inside and see what the Tuesday workshop has been working on all year. Don’t worry; there will be coffee and desserts there, too.