It's all about the food, but the annual Greek Fest is also all about the dancing

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PHOTO GALLERY | Greek Fest 2017

PITTSFIELD — The first thing one notices at the city's annual Greek Fest, hosted by the parish of St, George Greek Orthodox Church, is the line.

The line to get in, at about 1 p.m. on Sunday, stretched down Bradford Street about 20 yards. Several attendees yesterday estimated that the wait to get in was anywhere from 40-55 minutes.

The second thing one notices, as one moves closer to the entrance, is the melange of aromas. Beef, chicken and a cornucopia of spices waft over the crowd from the cooking tent at the far corner of the church grounds. "Mouth-watering" is an overused adjective in describing these situations, but in this case, it is no exaggeration.

The annual Greek Fest is, according to festival director Nick Parsenios, "a celebration and a sharing of our Greek culture. We see people from all over the county, as well as Vermont and New York. It's a once-a-year event and it's very popular."

Parsenios estimates that over the course of Saturday and Sunday, anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 people will visit the festival.

The event is also a fundraiser, according to the Rev. John Maheras, pastor of the church. It will raise funds for a host of charities supported by the church throughout the year. But to Maheras, the weekend is a chance to see parishioners and friends from the Berkshire Greek community.

"We have a very dedicated community," he said. "They are dedicated to the church and to our culture, and I'm very grateful for that."

As a visitor moved closer to the cooking tent, the activity clearly picked up. Servers rushed back and forth through the entrance. Pleasant aromas began to permeate the air.

One of the principal cooks, Helen Moutsos, estimated that the festival will go through 30 pans of moussaka (minced beef or chicken on layers of eggplant covered in a tomato-based sauce), another 30 pans of spanakopita (a Greek spinach pie) and 35 pans of loukoumades (Greek donuts with honey and walnuts).

"Not to mention," she said, "dozens and dozens of pastries and cakes."

"A lot of people come to the festival to buy these dishes," said Maharas. "These aren't available in supermarkets and they're all very labor-intensive to make. It's a lot easier to buy it than to make it at home. And it's all homemade."

A number of the cooks, said Parsenios, are chefs at their own restaurants. They volunteer their time to create these delectable dishes.

"The concessions, the food, it all supports the church," shrugged Jim Alimonos, owner of the Cozy Corner Restaurant in Williamstown. "We do it to support our community."

In addition to the food, there was Greek coffee, both hot and cold, as well as souvenirs and icons for sale. And there was music. This year, Athenian Entertainment, a Greek orchestra from Connecticut, provided the entertainment. The music was a meld of traditional Greek folk songs and more modern tunes. And some visitors came to dance

"It's not necessarily the food," said Ian Evans of Housatonic. "For a lot of Greeks, it's the music. I was an alter boy here in my youth, and I enjoy coming up here every year to listen to the music."

"Greeks dance all the time," said Corinne Keegan of Pittsfield. "We dance in good times and in bad. If we're happy, we dance to celebrate. If we're sad, we dance to forget. But we love to dance."

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-770-6977.


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