Volunteers from the Greek Orthodox community of Bay Ridge came together and peeled potatoes, whisked pastry batter and carved meat for gyros to prepare for the 12th-annual Holy Cross Greek Cultural Event.
The annual Ridge cultural festival helps fund the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church on Ridge Boulevard between 84th and 85th streets and the affiliated Dimitrios and Georgia Kaloidis Parochial School.
Festival chairman Harry Patsalis said the event raised a record $74,000 last year.
“We hope we exceed that amount this year,” he said.
Stalls decorated with toys, pastries, soaps, candles, books and jewelry spread across the Dimitrios and Georgia Kaloidis Parochial school auditorium.
Sister Theonymphi and sister Foteini, nuns from All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery in Long Island — and former Bay Ridge residents — brought homemade soaps, lotions, and candles to sell at the festival.
“We know this community from before we were nuns so we get to see people we know and we love them. It is like being with family so it is really nice,” Sister Theonymphi said.
Outside, barbecues crackled with roasting meats attracted eager customers as Mihali Papamihalakis stuffed cloves of garlic into tiny slits cut in the side a whole, marinated pig and pointed to another animal on his counter under a plastic cover.
“That is lamb. We will roast that too,” he said.
Patsalis said the cultural event attracts people outside the Greek Orthodox community as well. He said nearly 5,000 people attended the event last year.
“We get people from all over New York. A lot of our neighbors are not Greek. They love it here,” he said. “It is a family-friendly festival.”
Konstantine Lataniotis, attending the festival with his family, said the event brought back fond childhood memories.
“I grew up here. I was baptized at this church. So I wanted to bring my wife and kids here for the first time.”
The three-day festival running along 85th Street between Colonial Road and Ridge Boulevard lasted from Sept. 18 to 20, and included rides, raffle drawings, live bands and traditional dances performed by Dimitrios and Georgia Kaloidis Parochial School students.
Father Gerasimos Makris of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church said he enjoys sharing Greek culture and traditions with the community, and to remind them that there is more to the cradle of democracy than the grim news making recent headlines.
“Definitely not today’s [Greek] economic crisis,” Father Makris said.