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Greek, Little Italy, Carrot festivals offer food, music and more

Greek, Little Italy, Carrot festivals offer food, music and more

Stockade Villagers' Outdoor Art Show also this weekend
Greek, Little Italy, Carrot festivals offer food, music and more
A scene from a past Little Italy StreetFest on North Jay Street in Schenectady.
Photographer: gazette file photo

Schenectady will be a mecca for the senses this weekend. Between the cultural festivals, food-focused events, live music and visual art, the city will be bustling. 

The weekend after Labor Day is traditionally filled with festivals, including Greek Festival, Little Italy StreetFest and Carrot Festival, as well as the Stockade Villagers’ Outdoor Art Show. 

People often go on city-wide festival tours, sometimes starting with St. George’s Greek Festival or the Little Italy StreetFest before going over to the Stockade Art Show. On Sunday, some head to St. George’s before capping off their weekend at the Carrot Festival at Congregation Agudat Achim in Niskayuna. 

Whatever order you chose to festival hop, here’s a glimpse into what’s going on and what’s being served up at each spot along the festival trail this weekend:

Greek Festival 

The chefs at St. George’s are pros when it comes to handling hundreds of pounds of food in a matter of days. 

Longtime chef Chris Euripidou starts preparing the food at least a week in advance, marinating upwards of 600 pounds of chicken and 400 pounds of lamb for lamb shanks, which are his specialty. 

Making them is a time-consuming process. First, the meat needs to marinate for about a day. Then, it needs to be sheared and baked with red wine and honey tomato sauce for several hours. Oh, and don’t forget the orzo pasta that comes with it. 

Euripidou, who is a chef at Farmer Boy, has been involved with the festival since he was around 7 years old. His father was one of the festival’s chefs and Euripidou started carrying on the tradition about 14 years ago. 

Each year, the volunteer chefs fill a Price Chopper cooler trucks to the brim with Olympian kotta, moussaka,  pastitsio, pork souvlaki, and more in preparation for the festival. 

By the end, it’s always empty, said Euripidou. 

Beyond the entrees, volunteers make thousands of desserts, like the classic baklava, finikia, karidopita, and ravani, among others. Festival attendees can take them home or enjoy them right then and there. 

We invariably run out of things,” said Olga Delorey, one of the organizers and a longtime church member. 

That in itself is a sign of success, especially considering how much food they prepare:

  • 400 lbs of lamb shanks
  • 2,100 pieces of spanakopita 
  • 600 lbs of chicken souvlaki
  • 120 lbs of pork souvlaki 
  • 400 lbs of gyro meat 
  • 45 large pans of moussaka
  • 30 large pans of pastitsio
  • 250 stuffed peppers 
  • 400 lbs of potatoes 
  • 100 lbs green beans
  • 200 lbs rice 
  • 150 lbs of orzo
  • 25 gallons of tomato sauce 
  • 200 lbs of feta cheese 
  • 100 lbs of kalamata olives
  • 50 gallons of tzatziki sauce 
  • 3,000 finiki and kourambiethes 
  • 200-300 lbs koulourakia and paximathia

However, food is only one aspect of the festival. 

Throughout the weekend there will be traditional folk dance performances by the St. George Hellenic Dancers. The local dancers range between 5 and 21 years old and they’ll perform traditional dances wearing authentic Greek costumes. 

“It’s remarkable that these kids are dedicated to maintaining their heritage,” Delorey said. 

They will perform at 7 p.m on Friday, at 1, 3, 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 1 and 3 p.m. on Sunday. 

Prometheus, a festival favorite, will perform Greek music throughout the weekend as well.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday at the Hellenic Center (510 Liberty St.). 

Little Italy StreetFest

“People always bounce back and forth between festivals,” said Doreen Ditoro. 

She’s one of the organizers for the annual Little Italy StreetFest, which takes place on North Jay Street on Saturday. 

The festival began 14 years ago and has grown since then, both in offerings and number of attendees.  

This year, 20-plus vendors will line the street, selling everything from kettle corn to salsa to homemade jewelry to pet accessories. An Italian Heritage tent will offer educational information, Italian sing-alongs and free craft projects, including Venetian-style Carnivale mask making and puppet making.  

Of course, there will be no shortage of Italian food. Local restaurants will serve up pastries, pasta, paninis, calzones, and more. Perreca’s Bakery and More Perreca’s Italian Kitchen will be selling “Grandma Perreca’s Rice Balls,” among other dishes. Civitello’s Italian Pastry Shoppe will bring zeppole, cavatelli, meatballs and more. Cornells Restaurant, Hunters on Jay and The Sawmill Tavern will also be on hand. 

For many, the festival turns into a meeting place of sorts, said Ditoro.

It brings people from around the community together, including people celebrating their Italian heritage and people who just want to take part in the festival.  

Throughout the day, regional musicians are slated to play on two different stages. Linda Ezzo-Jones, Ed Clifford and TS Ensemble will perform on the South Stage throughout the day and Grand Central Station and 2096 will perform on the main stage. DJ Eddie will be playing most of the day on North Jay Street.  

In the midst of the music schedule, at 6 p.m. on the main stage, the King and Queen of the festival will be crowned. According to Ditoro, the crowning is a festival tradition and a key part of the event. Each year, two people who have given back to the community are crowned in recognition of their service. 

This time around, Reverend Richard Carlino and Sister Maria Rosa Querini of Schenectady’s St. Anthony’s Parish will receive the honor. Carlino has served in the Capital Region for 40 years and has inherited the role of spiritual advisor to the Little Italy neighborhood. Querini has served St. Anthony’s parish for more than 50 years, assisting with fundraising and programming.   

The Little Italy StreetFest runs from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday.  

Stockade Art Show 

Whether you’re a visual art lover or just need to walk off the baklava, heading to the Stockade for the annual outdoor art show is your best bet.

In its 68th year, the show is as popular as ever, bringing artists from around the greater Capital Region and beyond together. According to artist and organizer Steve Kowalski, more than 55 artists will be featured at the event on Saturday.

Some, like Linda Starr, will showcase detailed oil paintings and others, like Emily Fredericks, will showcase origami works. 

A junior in high school, Fredericks is returning to the show this year with these mobile-like creations that give her origami birds a whimsical movement. 
First-time artists like Meg Dalton will showcase wall quilts featuring scenes around Saratoga Springs. Dalton works from photos taken around Spa City, depicting everything from flowers to cityscapes.  

Works from expressionist painter Doug Levey will also be showcased. Using primarily bold oil colors, he paints with a wet on wet technique to create luminous works. 

The show, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday (with Sunday being the rain date), will be judged by three artists. Heather Hutchison, co-owner of Create Community Studios will judge works from artists 18 and under and Gary Shankman and Corey Pitkin will judge the adult categories. 

Shankman recently retired after 32 years of teaching fine arts at Sage College and is an Oakroom Artist. He’s known for his oil landscapes and still life paintings. Pitkin, an Oakroom Artist as well, is known for his figurative images and oil portraitures. 

As in previous years, several prizes, totaling $1,400, will be awarded, including a $500 first-place prize (from the Daily Gazette), a $200 second and $150 third place among others. 

This year, organizers are offering a new award in honor of a local artist who recently died. 

“A friend of the arts passed away recently and in his honor, we have added ‘The Steve Hennessey Award,’ best depiction of the human form, aka the figurative award, $100 and a ribbon,” Kowalski said. 

Organizers are also hoping to bring back a tradition that’s been lost for the last decade or two. 

“Up until 2000, after the show was judged and over, the winners hung up at the Schenectady Museum, which was awesome,” Kowalski said. 

He plans to poll artists to see if they would be willing to leave their work and exhibit it at the First Reformed Church for about a month after the Stockade Art Show. 

It will give the show more staying power and give people who couldn’t attend the chance to see the winning works. 

Some of the Stockade Streets will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, including portions of Front, Green and North Ferry Streets. 

Pre-registration is closed, however, artists can register on the day of the show starting at 9 a.m. with a $40 fee per adult or $10 per young artist (aged 8-18). 

For more info visit thestockadeartshow.com. 

Carrot Festival 

Although it’s not in Schenectady, the Congregation Agudat Achim’s Carrot Festival is just a short drive away. 

Year after year, thousands attend and many go just to get their hands on the signature carrot cake.

Volunteers make more than 500 carrot cakes and they’re often sold out by the end of the festival. Besides the signature cake, there are also plenty of other carrot-infused foods like cookies and tzimmes. 

If carrots aren’t your thing, the chefs are planning to serve Israeli salad, hummus, falafel and brisket sandwiches. 

Beyond the culinary options, there will be live music from The Refrigerators, Madison VanDenburg and Meredith Ferenczy. Other entertainment includes 3 Minute POP, and members of SLOC’s cast of “The Addams Family” and “Mary Poppins.”

The event also provides some hands-on activities for children, like “touch-a-truck.” Kids can see what an ambulance, a snowplow, a fire truck, the News 10 ABC Storm Tracker, a cherry picker from National Grid, a drone and an airplane look like. 

The festival, which caps off Schenectady’s weekend of festivals, is slated to run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, rain or shine at the Congregation Agudat Achim (2117 Union Street). For more info visit agudatachim.com.

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