From Greece to Andover  

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff photoChristine and Frank Greeley of Methuen enjoy food during the annual Greek Festival on Sunday at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church.

As batches of loukoumades sizzled in the fryer, waiting to be drizzled in honey, cinnamon and walnuts, hundreds of people at the annual Greek Festival filtered through the line for the popular dessert.

"It's a very famous Greek dessert," said Jimmy Kalogeropoulos of Andover, a member of the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church who was tasked with making the famous fried dough treats. "And Andover has signature ones."

For more than 30 years, the festival has brought a taste of Greece to the Andover community. Held on Saturday and Sunday, the event drew thousands of people to the campus of the church at 71 Chandler Road.

This year's festival featured cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, an Athenian Marketplace and live Greek dance performances. A disc jockey and live band performed traditional and modern Greek music, accompanied by outdoor dancing and performances from the parish youth group.

But what drew most people to the two-day festival was the food.

From signature legs of lamb to pastitsio, a Greek version of lasagna, the lines of people waiting to try the variety of foods never died down. The bakery featured Greek pastries, including baklava and galaktoboureko, a sweet custard baked in layers of crispy dough.

Underneath the tent outside the church were two of the most popular foods at the event: Gyros and loukoumades.

Ten-year-old Mia Karafilidis helped Kalogeropoulos at the loukoumades station, garnishing the small treats with sweet toppings and handing them out to people in line. It was Mia's first year helping out at the festival, and she was lucky enough to work at the stand that served her favorite treat.

"We joke that next year she will take over the festival," said Kalogeropoulos.

The most important part of the celebration?

"Community," Kalogeropoulos said. "We are a very loving community and we love sharing our culture and hospitality with people from other communities."

Father Christopher Makiej, pastor at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, said it was great to be able to open the church doors to the entire community for two days. He said visitors from all backgrounds and other religions came to the festival.

"They've not only come to eat, but they also love the church and the religious icons," he said, adding that the church has new painted icons displayed on the walls. The icons have been in the works for the past three years. The colorful masterpieces portray saints and important religious figures.

Makiej conducted tours of the church for people who were interested, showing them parts of the culture that go far beyond the food and entertainment.

One part of the Greek culture that was shown throughout the weekend was hospitality. Laughter filled the church campus while people talked with friends, family and parishioners over plates heaped high with food.

"If you're going to get a plate, it's going to be over-sized," said Makiej. "That's the Greek culture."

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