New York.- By Catherine Tsounis
“Reuniting with friends is special when I volunteer at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Flushing Festival,” said Chrisoula Douroudakis. “I have been volunteering for fifteen years. My two sons completed studies at the “Stephen and Areti Cherpelis” Greek School of St. Nicholas Church, Flushing, New York. We are from the island of Kos with strong pride in our Hellenic heritage. Parents such as Chrisoula Douroudakis pulled off an exceptional Festival, in spite of competition from other similar events.
Genuine dedication by three generations of community families created a 2014 spectacular festival of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Festival of Flushing, New York. The event was held from Thursday, October 9th through Sunday, October 12th. Greek and Cypriot cuisine was grilled in front of spectators. Loucoumades with long lines was the main food attraction. Vendors, games, Greek folk dancing, flea market, church tours, live music and a raffle drawing on October 12th were some of the highlights. Admission was free.
The 111th Police Precinct was on high alert in an international background of a U.S. counter terrorist offensive in Syria. The Police barriers protected pedestrians from occurring injuries. The 11th Police were on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. Deputy Inspector Jason Huerta, Captain Derek Seneus, Community Affairs Officer John Erdman, Community Affairs Detective Neil Blarney and Lt. Chris Catechis and others were monitoring the event. Officers expressed the opinion that they were prepared for every emergency in case of a counter terrorist attack. Civilians were encouraged to call 1888NYCSafe to report anything out of the ordinary.
Major politicians in New York City attended. The clergy and leaders are the following: by Rev. Protopresbyter Paul Palesty; Rev. Presbyter Aristidis Garinis; Rev. Presbyter Joakim Valasiades; Andrew Tsiolas, President of the Parish Council; Sotirios Georgiou, Festival Chairperson and Co-Chairman Larry Hatzoglou. For more information on members, and events, visit http://www.stnicholasflushing.org. Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Principal of the William Spyropoulos Day School Principal and George Kanellopoulos of the Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School, introduced the dance groups. View http://www.stnicholasflushing.org/schools.htm.
Festival Chairperson Sotirios Georgiou said “this is my ninth year and our 43rd Festival. I remember the late Mrs. Athena Peters who dedicated her time to the Flea Market Festival. This is a church festival on church grounds. We are not holding a fair. We have to be strong together. I am following my Dad’s example and hope my children do the same. I got to know so many persons personally. Persons I knew by face, I now know their names. It is a thrill to serve the community and church in such a way.”
Quiet and unassuming, he has worked behind the scenes to create the fabulous success.
His father, Renos Georgiou, a Cypriot immigrant, sent five children to William Spyropoulos School. Now his grandchildren attend.
ASTERI Entertainment provided outstanding music. I felt I was at a concert in Melrose Ballroom in Long Island City, New York. Fotis Dimitratos sang for four evenings with an n energetic style. His fellow vocalists Anthi Aggelou, RENA, Simona Orphanidou and others were exceptional. For more information, visit, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cuisine was flavored with Greek spices such as oregano. Greek gastronomy has a recorded history of around 4,000 years. Scientific studies have shown the positive effect of a balanced Greek diet on a person’s health, beauty and life span. Greek cuisine has four secrets: good quality fresh ingredients; correct use pf herbs and spices; olive oil and simplicity. Greek olive oil accompanies all Greek dishes. It is high quality and good for health. Frappe coffee, a Greek foam-covered iced coffee drink was a big draw. Anise flavored ouzo was added to all if requested. Greek cuisine has evolved and absorbed numerous influences and influenced many cuisines itself. Byzantine cuisine was similar to classical cuisine, with the additions of caviar, spices, nutmeg and lemons. Byzantine cuisine benefited from Constantinople’s position as a global hub of the spice trade. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_cuisine.
Halloumi sandwiches from the Cypriot Corner were popular, along with Sheftalia. Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was initially made during the Byzantine period (AD 395 – 1191), gaining popularity throughout the Middle East. The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, and has a salty flavor. This makes it an excellent cheese for grilling, fried and served with vegetables, or as an ingredient in salads, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloumi). Sheftalia is a sausage without skin that uses the membrane that surrounds of pig or lamb to wrap the ingredients. It is grilled until golden brown. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheftalia). Everyone loved the various offerings. Dr. John Spiridakis and his friend Dr. Peter Kalkanis shared memories on the Festival. “I am coming for fifteen years. My two sons attended William Spyropoulos School. I bought a banner as a sponsor for my law firm that is at lawhelp1.” Many businesses, banks, donors had their names inscribed on multiple banners on the church grounds. Dr. Kalkanis added “my wife, Karen, is involved in the festival and community for many years. Our daughters are graduates of William Spyropoulos School who are excelling in law studies.”
“The Church is our home,” explained Mr. Stephen Cherpelis, former parish council president, founder and Dikaiophylax Archon of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. “We live in it seven days a week and work hard to make it better than our home. Our church is a reflection of something better in all of us. More Orthodox Christians were killed defending their faith, from the time of the Fall of Constantinople in 1454 through the rise of Communism than the total number of people killed in the Holocaust and in both world wars.” This is currently being witnessed in the Middle East.
Archon Cherpelis told us of his encounter with a Greek Orthodox priest at a Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in September 2014. “Rev. Dr. George Zugravu, Dean of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Hartford Connecticut came up to me and hugged me warmly. He said ‘I was able to study Greek because of your $1500 of scholarships over three years. Studying Greek with Professor Tsounis and your scholarships are the reasons I learned Greek, enabling me to become a Greek Orthodox priest.’ It is amazing how my small scholarship of $1500 made a young Romanian into a Greek Orthodox priest. Archbishop Demetrios blessed me with the sign of the cross.” The international philanthropist and Dikaiophylax Archon created the first scholarships in 2000 for excellence in Modern Greek. Archon Cherpelis’ movement should continue across the United States. Maria Kyrkostas had the opportunity of thanking Mr. Cherpelis for helping her father, the late Gus Kyrkostas, in becoming an Archon of the church. When Mr. Cherpelis was a young immigrant, Mr. Kyrkostas inspired him. Years later he thanked Mr. Kyrkostas by inspiring fellow archons in giving him this title for his philanthropic work in Queens and Long Island churches.
Andreas George research “In the Footsteps of Saint Nicholas” explains “The most significant event in the history of St. Nicholas church in Flushing occurred on December 5, 1972 when Archbishop Iakovos was instrumental in arranging to have relics of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy transferred . . . After the installment of the saint’s relics, the church of St. Nicholas on Northern Boulevard became the “Big Church”. The Queens Chamber of Commerce selected it as unique for its architectural excellence…The transfer of the relics of St. Nicholas from Myra (Turkey) to Bari, Italy and then to New York City followed the migration of Greeks…financially secure through hard work, it was time to move to less-crowded residential areas with adequate schools, realizing the American dream…At first, the church was housed on Beech Avenue in Flushing. The idea of establishing a Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing was proposed in 1955 by Dr. Anthony Vasilas.”
In a previous interview with author Andreas George, he made it clear that Saint Nicholas is more than just “Santa Claus. The important celebration of St. Nicholas Day is devoted to his memory with little attention to Santa Claus whose presence is more important around the Christmas season…In Greece, St. Nicholas’ life is celebrated at all times, being the patron saint of Greek sailors and travelers. On his Feast Day on December 6th, small fishing boats are decorated with blue and white lights to remind them of St. Nicholas’ primary role as the protector of fishermen, sailors and other seamen.”
“St. Nicholas’ presence is felt in every Orthodox Church,” he said. “Mosaic scenes and wall illustrations about his life can be found in many churches. Today, an icon of St. Nicholas can be found in every Orthodox Church and in millions of homes in Greece, Cyprus, Russia and in the Balkan countries…They considered him as the defender of the faith (Canon of Faith) and the pillar and strength of the Church,” (Chapter 12, p. 68). The East Flushing Library at 196 St. and Northern Blvd. has several copies of Scientist George’s book in circulation for the public.
he community of St. Nicholas does what they say they say they are going to do with success. When faced with obstacles, they look it in the eye, stick to the plan and overcome. St. Nicholas festival is the power of people coming together to help their faith.