BRISTOL - Wholehearted support was shown for one city church over the weekend.
Local residents and businesses - Greek and non-Greek alike - made the annual fall festival at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church a dashing success.
“It was exceptional; out of this world,” Parish Council President Olga Bookas said Sunday morning.
She estimated about 2,000 people came through the church atop Brightwood Road both Saturday and Sunday, to savor Greek cuisine cooked by parishioners, along with their fellowship.
Homemade moussaka was the favorite dish, a hearty eggplant casserole with ground beef and mashed potatoes. Then there was pastitsio, baked pasta with ground lamb and cheese. Roasted lamb and gyro sandwiches were also very popular. After filling their plates and stomachs with these specialties, people headed over to a table stacked with sweet pastry delights.
Proceeds from food and drink sales are being used to make repairs on the church building.
Drinks were poured all night Saturday, and church volunteers ran out of food to sell.
That’s when Fresh Works and Oasis Restaurant came to the rescue, delivering more ingredients to feed the hungry crowds.
Oasis owners Vasilios and Andreas Theodoropoulos didn’t think twice about donating pounds and pounds of food.
“It’s my church, it’s my belief,” said Vasilios, who goes by “Bill.”
He is one of three godfathers or “nounos” who look over the church. The first godfather was Olga’s husband, Anthony Bookas, who passed away six months ago.
The 2018 Taste of Greece Fall Festival was dedicated to him.
“It means the world to me, to recognize a man with a vision to start this church and the festival,” Olga said.
St. Demetrios was built by local Greek families in 1982. The inaugural Zorba Festival came together in June 1983.
“He ran it for 15 years,” Olga said of her husband.
The fall event came to be seven years ago.
“My brother was something else,” recalled James Bookas, who flew from his home in Greece to take part in the weekend’s activities. “He was the best guy. Everyone loved him.”
Rev. Stephen Natsis greeted visitors with a smile and a handshake.
“A lot of people came out and enjoyed the fellowship,” he pointed out. “We love the festival because it’s about our culture.”
It took the work of many church members to cook, clean and serve.
“We had tremendous help,” Olga said. “I can’t even begin to thank everyone.”
Treasurer Frank Tomcak, one of these volunteers, served up gyros wearing a green apron that read “Zorba.”
“It’s been very busy,” he said. “There’s a great sense of community.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.