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Greek CommunityEventsNYC Community Joined Together to Enjoy St. Nicholas Shrine Church Festival

NYC Community Joined Together to Enjoy St. Nicholas Shrine Church Festival

Hellenic News of America
Hellenic News of America
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By Catherine Tsounis

Festivals provide an opportunity to meet neighbors and exchange news in a pleasant environment. In-person social interaction at festivals fosters harmony, peace, and a positive outlook. The 2024 St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine Church Festival in Bayside is an important part of New York City community life. This FREE event was held on the church grounds at 196-10 Northern Blvd. in Flushing from Thursday to Sunday, May 16th-19th, featuring evening and weekend daytime hours.

The NYPD 111th police precinct provided protective barriers, allowing the crowds to move freely and mingle without fear. “The 111th police precinct helps the community every year. The slogan was “1974: Never Forget 50 Years of Occupied Cyprus.” Greek/Cypriot cuisine, including souvlaki, gyro, sheftalies, haloumi, and pastries, drew crowds. The loukoumades stand had long lines, as did the Williams Spyropoulos School booth.

The William Spyropoulos School 8th grade performed Greek folk dances, showcasing the youth who represent our future. A rich scholastic environment is an investment in that future. The community has four schools: Church School, St. Nicholas Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Hellenic School, William Spyropoulos Day School, and the Saint Nicholas George & Evlavia Doulaveris Preschool. Rev. Protopresbyter Paul C. Palesty, Presbyter Aristidis Garinis, and Rev. Alexander Douvres are the clergy. Michael Haralambous is president of the Parish Council. The Festival Co-Chairpersons were Michael Giannakos, Larry Hatzoglou, and Michael Haralambous.

Loucoumades both workers with former principlas Mrs Athena-Tsokou Kromidas (3rd from left). Photos by Despina Siolas, MD./Ph.D.

The loukoumades are prepared by the parents and supporters of the St. Nicholas Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Hellenic School. Every year, Maria Zolotas, president of the Ladies Philoptohos and president of the School Board of the Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Hellenic School, can be seen at the loukoumades stand. “We look forward to cooking loukoumades to help our festival,” she said.

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Kiki Preponis, Vasso Dinas, and their families and friends work with enthusiasm, remembering Kiki’s late husband, Parashos Pari Preponis, who worked long hours making loukoumades. Our neighbor Chrissy Douroudakis energetically said, “Everyone must come and eat our loukoumades.”

A fabulous raffle was offered online and in person. Theodore Perdik, a parish council and Men’s League member, has donated his services for many years, selling raffles and cooking. He is a steadfast supporter of all projects. Tasos Tzallas, Tina Mellis, Andrew Tsiolas, Chris Fillos, Nick Tavantzes, Nicholas Karakostas, and others sold raffles and cooked. This is an incomplete list. Contact the church office for a complete list of participants and donors.

William Spyropoulos School dancers. Photos by Despina Siolas, MD./Ph.D.

The Philoptohos flea market offered a variety of items. Matina Botoulas, an international artist, said, “We had phenomenal success.” Greek music filled the streets, and prominent people attended. Vendor booths and children’s rides were major attractions. Amalia Bollanos, who comes every year, showcased her original jewelry creations, and many visitors returned annually to buy her jewelry. Vendor Olga offered her chocolate-covered fruits, and Steve provided Greek juices enjoyed by many. NY Life had a booth showcasing their services, and local banks sponsored banners. For more information, contact the church office at (718) 357-4200.

Festival Co-Chairman and parish council member Michael Giannakos takes videos of church services and streams them online. His family is from the village of Parakalamos in Epirus. “We welcome the entire community to come and have a great time,” he said. Christina C. Siroky, who served as parish council president for two years, said, “I found love in the community helping people.”

Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas served as an administrator for 33 years as principal and assistant principal of William Spyropoulos School, principal of Greek Afternoon School, and president of the High Council for Greek Education in the US. “St. Nicholas Shrine Church continues to grow,” she said. “Parents, children, and grandchildren are united in seeing the festival succeed.”

New Yorkers came to catch up with friends. Jeanette, of New York Physical Therapy Rehabilitation, came with her family to see friends and patients. Zoe and Dr. Eve Katsoulakis made it a point to see old friends. Theodora Efthimiades, retired educator, and Evangelia Klidas with friends Bonnie, Richard, and Yiota caught up on the latest news. That is what a festival is about.

Clergy with vendors (Panagiotis Bollanos of Epirus with wife Amalia.Photos by Despina Siolas, MD./Ph.D

Who was St. Nicholas? Santa Claus is not from the North Pole. He is based on Nicholas, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Myra, Lycia, a Greek/Byzantine city now known as Demre, in the Antalya province of Türkiye. When one thinks of St. Nicholas, the book “In The Footsteps of Saint Nicholas” by Andreas C. George comes to mind. This masterpiece on the Saint and East Flushing Church includes a detailed investigation of the existence of St. Nicholas of Myra, disproving the Vatican’s 1970s action demoting St. Nicholas as a major saint or characterizing him as a mythological figure.

St. Nicholas’ ancestors were Greeks, likely from Crete, given the similar customs and traditions with the Greek island. Modern Greek sources on the Greek cities of Asia Minor show that the Greek communities along the Asia Minor coast had a significant Cretan population until the 1922 Catastrophe. Mr. George’s research added that St. Nicholas spent time in Cyprus through his visits to monasteries and study of Greek sources. His translations into English are invaluable to a serious reader.

“Memory is the mother of all wisdom,” said ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus. The parishioners of St. Nicholas Shrine Greek Orthodox Church of Bayside united to create a magnificent religious and educational center. Their dedicated effort contributed to the greatness of Hellenism in New York City and the United States. The successful 2024 festival is the result of their tireless efforts.

Philoptohos ladies of Flea Market. Photos by Despina Siolas, MD./Ph.D


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