BY BRIAN EDSALL
Friends, family, food and history are what bring people together every year for Rockland County’s Greek Festival, hosted by the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of West Nyack. Now in its 47th year, the largest cultural festival in Rockland County continues to thrive.
“The festival brings together people of all ages and from many different communities and cultural backgrounds,” said Panagiota Anagmostopoulos, who has been a part of the festival for 34 years. “And on top of that, it’s a great fundraiser for the church.”
Anagmostopoulos, who was born in Greece and came to America in 1968, stressed the importance of celebrating Greek heritage and sharing the celebration with those outside of the Greek community. After months of food preparation, she and others felt fulfilled as guests smiled and laughed while eating traditional Greek cuisine, including gyros, souvlaki, diples, kataifi, and baklavas.
“I’m not Greek myself, but the food is just delicious,” said Stacey McHenry, 35, who has been attending the festival since she was five. The popularity of the food is unquestionable, but Leo Michaels, 81, who has participated in the festival since its inception in 1970, explained the importance of educating the guests on Greek culture, including literature.
Michaels, the choir director at Saints Constantine and Helen, was born in Greece but came to America in 1954 to attend college. “I’m selling these books for educational purposes,” explained Michaels. “I have not read all of the books, but I know the stories and I enjoy sharing them.”
“I love the fellowship that the Greek festival brings,” continued Michaels. “I love meeting new people while also seeing some of the same people return each year.”
Aside from food and Greek literature, guests browsed a variety of stands selling items such as clothing, jewelry, cosmetics and toys. People of all ages enjoyed all the festival had to offer, including carnival activities for children and a wine bottle ring toss for adults.
This annual festival highlights some of the best aspects of Greek culture. Friendships are strengthened and relationships are formed, all while enjoying this cultural celebration and contributing to a positive cause.