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Local Greek Orthodox Church celebrates its heritage

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On Saturday, February 4th, the community was able to catch the exuberant spirit of Greek culture−complete with music, dancing, food and colorful costumes. The occasion was the 11th Annual Greek Food and Music Festival sponsored by Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Spring Hill. The purpose was not just to raise money, but to expose people to what it means to be Greek and to take pride in your heritage.

The beautiful weather brought a record crowd out, as evidenced by the number of cars and the overflow parking that was deftly handled by the people managing the traffic. The lines at the concession stand selling all types of Greek cuisine−from Souvlaki Chicken and Spanakopita to Gyro Sandwiches and Greek Salads−proved that the crowd brought their appetites with them. For those who just wanted a snack, there was a separate concession stand selling coffee and traditional pastries, such as baklava and loukoumades (a type of donut). Best of all, the event was free.

According to Dawn Triconi, one of the organizers of the festival, this year’s attendance was approximately 2,500 compared to about 1,500 last year. “This was by far the best in terms of success. Our main goal was to encourage visitors to Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church and to show that this is a community church,” stated Ms. Triconi.

The festival lasted from 11 am until 8 pm, with plenty going on throughout the day and evening. Young people and adults in traditional costume performed dances and there was live Greek music performed by talented musicians. Children were kept entertained at the Kid’s Fun Zone featuring sack races, table games and hula hoop contests and other fun activities .

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For those who wanted to know more about the Greek Orthodox religion, members of the parish conducted tours of the church. And for the more adventuresome, there was a gyro-eating contest and a Saganaki (flaming cheese) demonstration.

Several businesses, corporations and local crafters had booths where they displayed information about their company and sold hand-crafted products.

Myra Stack with MJ’s Eclectic Beaded Jewelry Designs proudly displayed her multi-colored rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces−many in matching sets. This was her second year as a vendor at the festival. “I came out today to support the church, sell some of my jewelry and make people happy,” Ms. Stack said. “Homemade jewelry has a lot more love put into it than what you buy at the store.”

David and Virginia Alexander with Angels of Hope Love is Real are part of a group of volunteers who make and sell items to raise money for people in other countries. Their primary cause this year was for the people in the Ukraine. “All the proceeds will go to help the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Alexander stated.

The local group is fairly small. However, the organization, founded in 2006, is in 57 countries and all 50 states. They raise money for needs all over the world and donate their “Angels of Hope” to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. For more information about the organization go to www.angelsofhopeloveisreal.org.

One of the newer parish members, Sandy, was in charge of the booth selling raffle tickets for various gift baskets geared to different interests. These included school supplies, a coffee and tea basket and a Valentine’s basket. “Everybody did a tremendous job in putting together the gift baskets. We’re bringing people together and seeing families enjoying the day,” Sandy remarked.

Lilith Richards was there selling intricate laser wood engravings for the owner of Xylo Crafts, Bill Zervos. Among these items were Greek Orthodox icons, home décor items and coasters.

The parish Priest, Father John Lazarek and his wife Diana, were pleased with the day’s festivities. “There’s a better turnout than last year and we are having it earlier this year than last year. Covid impacted us last year.”

As with any event of this magnitude, it takes the work and cooperation of dozens of people. Usually it’s over four to five months, but this year they put it together in record time−five weeks. The Greek Food and Music Festival allowed the community to get a “taste” of this colorful country without leaving home.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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