SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — What has become a cultural connection with the community returns in just a few days. Each year, Greek Fest features everything from desserts to dinner, and the work to make this year’s festival a lip-smacking success is already underway.
Sioux City’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church dates back to 1918.
“The hearts of our people, the hard work they’re faith is something that I really haven’t seen in my journeys around. They are committed to keeping the faith and culture we have, committed to doing whatever we need,” said parish member Mary Baryo.
More than a century ago, the small group that started this parish couldn’t have envisioned all the commitment would include. Like the power of prayer, there’s a frenzy over phyllo at the church.
“One of the only Greek festivals in the country that makes everything from scratch,” said volunteer Maria Schultz.
This festival dates back 22 years.
“We don’t purchase one item and that’s why we get such great reviews. It’s the same recipes that have been handed down from year to year,”
Greek Fest returns July 29 but before the masses can be fed, a smattering of parishioners must prepare the fest feast. On this day, 20 pans of Spanakopita.
“You can’t hurt Spanakopita, the more you put in the better,” said Schultz. “We’re crumbling the feta cheese that will go into the Spanakopita. Everything is better with feta as they say here.
Fifty pounds of feta is being used to be exact.
“Sherri and I are both retired court reporters, so we’re used to having our hands going all day long,” said Schultz.
Feta is only a small part of this span, seventy pounds of spinach, hundreds of eggs, and 80 pounds of phyllo dough are all ingredients needed to fill 20 pans. Enough to serve almost 1,000 guests.
“We make it all here. We don’t order it from any supplier. Everything is made without recipes and ingredients been using for years,” said Baryo. “We have everyone we can muster come and help. Men that come in days we have 70 years old, young women coming in with their children and grandchildren. It’s evolved into many weeks of preparation. If you put all the man hours together, it probably would take 6 weeks of full-time preparations.”
Schultz said that it all comes together by the end of July.
“They’re putting a pound of phyllo on the bottom and now we’ll take it in and add the filling,” said Schultz. “You have to work quickly with the phyllo, or it dries out. Gotta keep it going as quickly as you can. We’ll top it with another pound of phyllo. Lots of butter and olive oil and love go into our Spanakopita, like all our items.”
“Many things we can put together like what we were doing today to certain points we wrap it and freeze it and then the week of the festival it comes out and gets baked and that’s the only way we can accomplish such a goal,” Baryo said. “The last week I tell people to get behind the door and push. We’re lucky we had peers to show us the way. My mother, these ladies, and their mothers’ grandmothers. The older women of the church showed the next generation like myself and now hopefully I’m showing the next generation the little, finer points and tricks of the trade as to what to do on these special items and how you prepare them.
Baryo added, “I hope this can go on for many years to come. As things change and movement in order to maintain, but I see great interest in our next generation.”