Schenectady

It’s festival weekend in Schenectady with wide variety of food, live music, dance and art

Clockwise from top left: Steve Giakowmis and Jennie Vlahakis prepare stuffed peppers in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church Hellenic Center on Tuesday for this weekend’s Greek Festival; an artist's paintings at a past Stockade Villagers' Outdoor Art Show; a scene on North Jay Street in Schenectady at a past Little Italy StreetFest. (Peter R. Barber/The Daily Gazette and provided photos)
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Clockwise from top left: Steve Giakowmis and Jennie Vlahakis prepare stuffed peppers in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church Hellenic Center on Tuesday for this weekend’s Greek Festival; an artist's paintings at a past Stockade Villagers' Outdoor Art Show; a scene on North Jay Street in Schenectady at a past Little Italy StreetFest. (Peter R. Barber/The Daily Gazette and provided photos)

There will be plenty to do this weekend and three of the main events are within walking distance of each other.

St. George Greek Festival

Starting on Friday and running through Sunday, this is the 46th annual festival sponsored by the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

“We were the first Greek Orthodox Church in the region,” Athena Pagnotti, the festival’s publicity co-chair, said last week. “The festival is a community based effort and it’s the community that does all the cooking. It’s in our DNA. We’ll start prepping on Sunday and Monday to get going and then cook throughout the week.”

That authentic Greek food includes moussaka, spanakopita, stuffed peppers, baklava, souvlaki, gyros, lamb shanks, and loukoumades, which is deep fried dough dipped in honey. And for the first time in years, a lamb sandwich is back on the menu. Ice coffee whipped as a frappe will also be available.

The festival is more than just great food.

St. George has a Greek language program that involves culture, art, dance, and language that is open to anyone. People who participate and learn Greek traditional dance often get to perform at the end of the year. Many of these dancers aged 5 to 25 will perform at this festival and will be dressed in authentic costumes, many of them handmade, Pagnotti said. Many of the dances reflect the different regions of Greece. The St. George Hellenic Dancers will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday; at 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Also on hand will be Prometheus, an eight-member band consisting of first- and second-generation Americans of Greek descent. The band, which includes two bouzoukis (a lute type instrument), guitar, clarinet, violin, two drummers and vocalists will start at 5 p.m. each day of the festival.

Church tours with Father Sarigiannis are also offered to view the Byzantine art and architecture. A Commemoration of the 21st anniversary of 9/11 will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday. The Agora Marketplace is the place to buy Greek specialty foods as well as arts and crafts and the St. George Bookstore has gifts, religious items and children’s books and information on the church’s language program.

The annual Greek festival at 510 Liberty St. across from the Schenectady County Public Library will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission fee.

Little Italy StreetFest

A few blocks away on Saturday will be the 17th annual Little Italy StreetFest starting at noon and running to 8 p.m. on North Jay Street. The day will be chock full of food to eat, music to listen and dance to, and numerous children’s activities including face painting, balloons, and improvisation classes with MopCo.

Food will be high on most people’s list to savor — especially the rice balls that Perreca’s makes.

“We started cooking thousands of rice balls in mid-August,” said Maria Papa, owner of Perreca’s Bakery. “They’re the hit of the festa and we only make them for this festa.”

Called arancini, the rice balls are rolled in an egg wash and bread crumbs and then baked and served with the bakery’s own marinara sauce. But there’s more, such as eggplant dishes, ziti and meatballs, cavatelli, gelatos, calamari, and beer and wine. Besides Perreca’s, More Perreca, Civitello’s, Hunter on Jay, Cornell’s, Kristen’s Day Spa and Rossi DiToro are participating.

Music will be all day, provided by Edward Clifford, Happy Daze, The Rouges, Linda Ezzo Jones and John DiFilippo and Joe Sinatra. And in keeping with a tradition that started only about six years ago, a king and queen will be named.

“We wanted to add another dimension to the festivities. What better way to honor those who’ve helped the community,” Papa said.

This year, Mike Saccocio, the executive director of the City Mission of Schenectady, will be crowned king; Marisela Fragoso-DelValle, the longtime Schenectady Police Department local beat cop who has since become the only female member of the SWAT team, will be named queen.

“We rent the costumes from The Costumer and once they’re crowned at 5 p.m., must wear their garments the rest of the festa,” Papa said laughing.

Stockade Villagers’ Outdoor Art Show

If food is not the focus, come to the 71st annual Stockade Villagers’ Art Show on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. mostly within a triangle of streets in the historic neighborhood.

“We’ll have painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and expressionist fiber abstraction,” said Steve Kowalski, chair of this year’s show. “It will all be original stuff, no reproductions.”

The show currently has 50 exhibitors, although he expected many more to register, who are waiting to see how the weather will be. Last year, despite the pandemic, they had ninety exhibitors.

The show is a juried event, one of the last outside juried events within a 90-mile radius, he said.

“Many of the older artists are dying out. The newer [artists] are going to festivals or online,” he said.

Prizes of up to $1,000 for first prize are given including five honorable mentions, such as best depiction of the Stockade or best new artist. In the past, prizes were given to what the jurors thought was the best.

“The artists often didn’t think that was their best work,” Kowalski said. “So ten years ago, the judges scoped out all the work. Now the two jurors meet at lunch and choose based on the artist’s body of work.”

Up to 2,000 people are expected to view the offerings, he said. A rain date will be the next day from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

44th annual Carrot Festival

On Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Congregation Agudat Achim at 2117 Union St. (See accompanying story).

Schenectady Caribbean Day

On Saturday from 11 a.m. to dusk at Music Haven, Central Park, Schenectady. Live music, food, games and vendors will be featured.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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