WEIRTON - The All Saints Greek Orthodox Church community prides itself on the practice of philoxenia, or being a friend to all.
That practice served the congregation well this week, as the recent storms short-circuited the church's freezers, and food prepared for the annual festival was destroyed. Having to throw away $35,000 worth of food might be back-breaking to some, but with the help of volunteers from the Weirton community and their sister church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Steubenville, Ohio, the All Saints community is determined that the show will go on as planned.
"I can't say enough about these volunteers," said Chair Nick Tranto. "And our sister church has been amazing. Through the tremendous support of the community, we are baking and cooking everything so we don't miss a beat for the festival. It is only made possible through our volunteers and the generous support of the community. All of this had to be remade - 6,000 grape leaves, rolled by hand, one by one."
ALL IN THE FAMILY — Three generations of the Glyptis family, including, from left, Lamone, Angie and Angela Glyptis, assisted with making grape leaves for the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church festival, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 19-21 at the church located at 3528 West St. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
Tranto said the festival, which draws approximately 3,000 visitors and raises about 30 percent of the church's annual budget, wouldn't have been possible this year without the help of the extended Weirton community.
The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 19-21 and will mark its silver anniversary this year with a new feature - a market place with items inspired by Greek culture. Those attending the festival can purchase T-shirts, jewelry, religious candles, prayer ropes, coin wrist and anklebands and Greek wedding stephana.
"It is unique in that it is one of the last remaining purely ethnic festivals in the Northern Panhandle," said Tranto. "We are celebrating the Greek traditions of our immigrant grandparents and parents. What we have now are first and second generation Greek-Americans."
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The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 19-21
The three-day festival will feature tours of the church, one of the most historical downtown buildings. It is crowned with a stainless steel dome placed more than 60 years ago, when the church was built.
"The dome was a cooperative effort between the immigrant Greek Orthodox steel workers and Weirton Steel," said Tranto, adding it was one of the few in the country.
Tranto said the iconography throughout the church reflects 2,000 years of Byzantine religious tradition stretching from the Roman catacombs to modern-day churches, noting that the same motifs, characters and placement can be seen in icons in any Orthodox church.
"You will see the same icons, the same placement, the same faces," said Tranto. "It is an ancient religion and it binds the Greek Orthodox community together. Throughout the world, you can walk into an Orthodox church and you're not a stranger. It's philoxenia, which means 'friend to all.' Greeks take great pride in it. Everyone is welcome in our community."
The festival also will feature the All Saints' Patriotakia and Aegean Dancers, two youth dancing groups performing traditional Greek dances. They will perform at 8 p.m. July 20.
"We are very proud of our two dance groups," said Tranto.
Traditional Greek music will be provided by The Greek Co. Orchestra, which will be performing from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. July 20 and 21. Approximately 600 free booklets, recognizing the sponsors behind the festival and including Greek recipes, will be distributed.
"We firmly believe that, by teaching our children and grandchildren about our past, we are preparing them for the future," said Tranto. "It helps them relate to diverse groups of people and to respect others' traditions and customs. In order to get where you are going, you need to remember where you came from. This church was built by immigrants, and now we are seeing first-, second- and third-generation."
Other entertainment will include disc jockey Jim Antoniou, who will provide music daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Ted Arneault and The Ditch, an oldies band, performing at 6 p.m. July 19; Fehrion Studios, country, jazz, Celtic and Broadway music soloists, performing at 4:30 p.m. July 20; and the Weirton Christian Center Kids Signs of Hope, who will sign, sing and dance, performing at 5 p.m. July 21.
"This is a celebration of the entire Weirton community and its ethnic diversity," said Tranto.
In addition to the celebration of the Greek heritage and entertainment, there will be an array of food available. Some popular dishes include grape leaves, rolled and stuffed with beef and rice; spanakopita, spinach pies with fetta cheese and phyllo dough; pastitchio, a Greek take on lasagna; moussaka, an eggplant lasagna; roast leg of lamb; lamb stew; gyros; galatobouriko, custard-filled phyllo dough; baklava pastries; koulourakia, Greek twist cookies; loukoumathes, warm doughnuts with syrup; fish plaki, cod in tomato sauce; souzoukakia, meatballs in a wine tomato sauce over rice; kataifi, a walnut, cinnamon and sugar mix with honey syrup over shredded dough; kourambiethes, butter cookies with powdered sugar; and Greek Easter bread.
Pre-orders for food can be called into (304) 797-9884 or faxed to (304) 797-1725 one hour before pickup. No pre-orders after 5 p.m. Business delivery will be available from noon to 2 p.m. July 19-20 for minimum orders of $50.
Admission and parking are free at the church located at 3528 West St.
For information, visit www.allstswwv.org.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)