By PETE FONTAINE The Cranston Greek Festival, which will open its 35th annual running this Friday at 5 o'clock at 175 Oaklawn Ave., will feature several new twists while also serving as a mighty memorial to one of Church of the Annunciation's most
The Cranston Greek Festival, which will open its 35th annual running this Friday at 5 o’clock at 175 Oaklawn Ave., will feature several new twists while also serving as a mighty memorial to one of Church of the Annunciation’s most beloved parishioners, iconic and long-time chef Harry Bablenis, 88, who sadly passed away on Jan. 28, 2020.
“Harry was loved and cherished by everyone,” said general chairman Theofanis “Frank” Markos. “It was an honor and pleasure working with him in the kitchen for many food events; we all learned so much from Harry and were saddened by his unexpected passing.”
As for the three-day festival’s new twists, Markos – who is joined by co-chairs Kevin Phelan, Evan Andrikos and Gina Liakos – spoke of the online food order processing, which he “will result in quicker service.”
The online ordering – which was part of a former food event – begins with using the camera on your smartphone to scan a QR code or visiting greekfestexpress.com, then selecting your food items and purchasing with a credit card. Then enter the “Online Order Pick-up” line and provide your name to check in and make your way to the designated waiting area while your order is being prepared.
In keeping with tradition, the 2021 festival will roast lamb, pork and chicken souvlaki dinners as well as roast chi ken and Pastitsito. The gyro sandwich will also be in high demand, while sides like Greek-style potatoes, rice pilaf, Dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice) and Greek salad are on the menu.
A la carte offerings include spanakopita (spinach pie), Tyropita (cheese pie), pork and chicken souvlaki, roast chicken and pastitsio. There will also be grilled hot dogs, French fries, pita bread, Tzatziki sauce, soda and water and of course a full bar with Greek and American wines and beers, mixed drinks and liqueurs.
The Greek Pastry Shoppe’s offerings have been prepared by two groups of people that Koula Rougas, the long-serving and respected chairperson, said fall into two categories: “The many wonderful women of our parish who have been baking for years and younger people who are learning the ropes from veteran volunteers.”
This year’s Greek Pastry Shoppe has also received valuable help from ladies like Krissy Narcisi and Danielle Marland, who are neighbors of Rougas’s son, Dr. Steven Rougas, and daughter-in- law, Trisia. They double as committee co-chairs.
“They became interested upon learning about our festival,” Rougas said. “They came forward and wanted to join in the fun.”
So all systems are go on Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
“Our parishioners and volunteers are excited to host the festival and have been planning and working hard for months,” said Father Andrew George, popular pastor at Church of the Annunciation. Meanwhile, Assistant Priest Father Nick Lanzourakis stated: “We are in awe of everyone that makes the festival as great as it is.”
And that includes avoiding traffic and parking jams on and around Oaklawn Avenue as members of the Cranston Police Department are on duty and help traffic move freely. There’s also parking and free shuttle service available from Cranston High School West off Curtis Street. Buses will leave every 10 minutes until closing.
Likewise, there will be live Greek music and traditional performances by Annunciation’s famous Odyssey Dance Troupe, which will perform in unique costumes on Friday at 7 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday at both 4 and 7 p.m. There will also be Greek imports and church tours, a special bookstore and admission is free.
People who’d like more information should call the parish at (401) 942-4188.