A series of events celebrating food, music and art begin at 11 a.m. this morning in downtown Schenectady with the opening of the 38th annual Greek Festival, sponsored by the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.
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The Greek Festival, held at the Hellenic Center at 501 Liberty St., will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Saturday, and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. Also on Saturday, the 8th annual Little Italy StreetFest will be held on North Jay Street from noon until 9 p.m., while the 62nd annual Stockade Villagers’ Outdoor Art Show takes place in the Stockade section of the city from 10 a.-m-4 p.m. In addition, the pedestrian section of Jay Street will be hopping Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. with live jazz music and street vendors. Admission is free to all four events.
The Greek Festival will include a celebration of both Greek food and culture. All the traditional foods will be available -- moussaka (eggplant, potato and ground beef), lamb shanks, spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese between layers of filo dough) and pastry baklava, among others. As for music, the Aegeans will play Greek music throughout the festival, and the Fota Hellenic Society will perform folk dances in traditional Greek costumes.
“The food at the Greek Festival is definitely top notch,” said Evan Euripidou, chairman of the event. “Everything is homemade and it’s all recipes passed down from generation to generation. They’ve been perfected for a long time.”
The Little Italy StreetFest will offer an abundance of food choices from “Little Italy “ restaurants, such as lemon ices from Civitello’s, minestra (beans and greens) from Cornell’s and arancini (rice-covered meatballs) from More Perreca’s. There will also be plenty of music, on two stages. The main stage will feature the band Grand Central from noon until 2:30 p.m. and Happy Daze -- featuring a performance by singer-actor-wine maker Gianni Russo -- from 3 until 5 p.m. Capri Band will perform from 6 until 9 p.m.
Musicians on the fest’s small stage will include Joe Sinatra, the Singing Maddelone Kids and Dan Dobek. Ralph Brooks will play the accordion at More Perreca’s from 5 until 9 p.m. “Nunzio, the Italian DJ” will also be on the scene.
More than 20 craft vendors will be on North Jay Street, selling items such as local wines, fresh flowers and glassware. Face-painting and chair massages will be offered at Kristin’s Terme on Jay ; hand-beaded Italian-themed jewelry will be sold at KC Creations Jewelry. In an Italian cultural tent, exhibits by the Sons of Italy , the American Italian Heritage Museum and Laziali nel Mondo will be on display.
Roie Angerami, who runs Civitello’s Italian pastry shop, says there’s an obvious reason why people keep coming back to the festival.
“I think it’s the food, the noise, the smells,” she said. “It’s friendly, it’s family-oriented. I think they should expect to have a good time.”
Meanwhile, visitors to the Stockade Villagers’ Art Show will be able to look at and purchase artwork as well as stroll through Schenectady’s historic district. Much of the activity will be focused around the Stockade’s famous landmark, a statue of Lawrence the Indian near the intersection of Front, North Ferry and Green Streets.
“You’re not only looking at the beautiful artwork, you’re also looking at the beautiful settings,” said Jessica Gelarden, who is chairing the art show with her husband Charles. “It’s just a great opportunity to go out with friends and family, enjoy a beautiful day and take something beautiful home with you.”
Gelarden is expecting more than 100 artists to be exhibiting their work, ranging from photography to painting to sculptures.
Works will be judged for cash prizes and ribbons, including $300 for first prize, $200 for second and $150 for third. Three special $100 awards also will be given, as well as six $25 honorable mention awards. The Ernest A.R. Cohen Award will be given for the best artwork depicting the Stockade neighborhood.
Gelarden welcomes all the weekend’s activities. Like people organizing the 8th Annual Schenectady Little Italy StreetFest and the 38th Annual Greek Festival of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, she believes more pedestrian traffic helps all the events.
“It will just be a great day to peruse artwork and talk to the artists directly, enjoy the day and purchase their work,” Gelarden said.
For refreshments, Gelarden said Arthur’s Market will be open with a limited menu. And for parking, Gelarden said art fans will be able to park in the parking lots of First Reformed Church and St. George’s Church.
She is hoping against rain. But if storms come, the art show’s rain date will be Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.