Greek Festival returns from hiatus

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 10/12/21

Newburgh residents and patrons enjoy homemade, authentic Greek food, welcoming back the Newburgh Greekfest.

The festival is normally held twice a year at St. Nicholas Greek Church at 19 Fullerton …

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Greek Festival returns from hiatus

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Newburgh residents and patrons enjoy homemade, authentic Greek food, welcoming back the Newburgh Greekfest.

The festival is normally held twice a year at St. Nicholas Greek Church at 19 Fullerton Avenue. The spring version, as well as last year’s festivals, were canceled due to COVID.

Tony Thomakos, the current chairman of the festival, is happy to see parishioners and visitors alike enjoying the festival. “We want the people to come out and enjoy, taste the food. Taste authenticity,” Thomakos said. “We want them to learn about culture and our heritage.”

The festival not only brings the surrounding community together but serves as a fundraiser for the church. With an uneasy year behind him, Thomakos says he continues to receive positive feedback from everyone who attended because many patrons were anticipating the return. Thomakos encourages others to take part in the festival and enjoy the food.

When first arriving at the church, guests made their way to one of the two large white tents. The first tent, parallel to the church, is where guests would line up beginning at the street. John Grigorakis of Newburgh can recollect when lines would go all the way to Broadway if there was good weather. On one side of the tent there was food and on the other would be desert. Each item would be priced accordingly and once all was taken care of, participants would make their way to the other tent and sit and eat and enjoy live music.

Grigorakis, born in Greece, came to the United States 52 years ago and has lived in Newburgh since. According to Grigorakis, the festival at the church first began in 1980 and runs twice a year on a planned weekend in June and October. Grigorakis personally has been involved with the festival since its creation. The festival has operated both at the church and the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, Grigorakis said.

Grigorakis, was happy to see people coming out again.

“The last two years, I was wondering if we’re ever going to come back,” Grigorakis said. “We knew this was going to happen this year because people were waiting.”

Charles Varkirtiz, one of the several volunteers for the festival, is a former chairman of the festival that prepared and ran the event. He has been an active member of the church here in Newburgh since 1972. Seeing the community members and patrons returning to the festival makes Varkirtiz very happy to see. During his time as chairman, Varkirtiz had three goals in mind: raising money for the church, inviting everyone to partake, and sharing and promoting the Greek community that is here in the area. “I wanted the rather small Greek community in this area to be visible in the greater Newburgh, New Windsor area,” Varkirtiz said.

According to Thomakos, the festival looks to continue to its twice a year slate with it being back in June 2022. To learn more and keep up with the festival, people can visit the Newburgh Greekfest Facebook page.

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