This year’s local celebration of Greek culture takes place Thursday, May 15 through Sunday, May 18 during the 39th Annual St. George Greek Festival.

The event is one of the oldest and most well attended ethnic festivals in New Jersey, according to Parish Council member Hope Vulgaris Armenti.

“This is a wonderful time, when we invite the community to join us to celebrate the food, music and comraderie of the Greek people,” she explained. “When you come here it’s like coming to our home: we offer you food, dance and music for your enjoyment.”

The cuisine is a huge draw for this annual feast. Classic Greek dishes are home made by parish members and include such delights arni kokkinisto (braised lamb shanks); moussaka, (baked eggplant with meat filling); pastitsio, (baked macaroni with meat filling); lemon chicken; spanakopita, (filo pastry filled with spinach and cheese); fish plaki, (baked fish); souvlakia, (filet mignon shish kebob); and arni psito, (roast lamb) will all be home made by members of the parish.

There will also be a Taverna of Greek beer, wine and frappe (traditional hot coffee made many ways, hot and cold), outdoor grills cooking up souvlaki and gyros, and the Mezedakia Bar of hors d’oeuvres like feta cheese, stuffed grape leaves, meatballs and sausage. Armenti says many regulars come to stock up and freeze for future use.

“Get here early: the lamb shanks sell out fast,” Armenti noted. “It’s a real labor of love to create our traditional dishes. More than 3,000 grape leaves are rolled from scratch. You’ll find more than 100 trays of baklava, too.”

A sampling of the items available in the Pastry Shop include baklava (layered filo with nuts and honey); galatoboureko, (filo dough filled with custard); kourambiedes, (butter cookies with powdered sugar); finikia (cookies dipped in honey); and tsourekia (holiday bread).

The Festival Agora (market place) is also popular. That and the Flea Market will have jewelry, novelties, paintings and other Greek treasures. Interested attendees may also tour the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

During the evenings and on Sunday, there is a small admission fee of $2 to cover the cost of music. There will be children dancing traditional Greek dances in colorful native costumes, some of whom are second and third generation Greek-American children, and many of them speak and understand Greek.

“It’s a joy to watch,” Armenti added. “Dance Greek, eat Greek food, listen to our music and enjoy our culture. We’re so proud to share it with our community, who have been so supportive of this festival for nearly four decades. We also thank our festival co-chairs, President of St. George Greek Orthodox Church Thanasis Ginis and Stewardship Committee member Joanne Kakoyiannis.”

The festival hours are:

• Thursday, May 15, 5 to 10 p.m.

• Friday, May 16, noon to 11:30 p.m.

• Saturday, May 17, noon to 11:30 p.m.

• Sunday, May 18, noon to 7 p.m.

Free parking is available, and the church is handicap accessible. For more information, call 609-586-4448.

St. George Greek Festival, St. George Community Center, 1200 Klockner Road, Hamilton. 609-586-4448.

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