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Elias Pozantides

T his marks the 30th year of the annual Hellenic Festival, which takes place June 1-3 at the Hellenic Church of the Annunciation, 146 West Utica at the corner of Delaware Avenue. Admission is $2 and children under 12 are free. Proceeds from the festival go to benefit the church, which has been restored after a terrible fire in 2001—the only year in its 31 year history in which the Hellenic Festival was not held. The church, built in 1906, is on the US and New York registers of historic places and free tours will be available. Just don’t get the impression that this is merely a sedate architectural tour. With great Greek food, drink, music, dance and hospitality, the Hellenic Festival is a true gem among the city’s ethnic celebrations. Artvoice spoke to Elias Pozantides, the 2007 Hellenic Heritage Festival Chairman. Here’s how he describes the event.

Artvoice: How did you get involved with the festival?

EP: I got involved with our festival, of course, being in the Greek community, and belonging to our parish. Somehow we all do get involved in volunteering work and other ways, but being that I’m in the restaurant business I wanted to try to help in that way, doing a lot of the buying of the food, cooking, and helping a lot of the other volunteers. Then I got involved more and more. And more and more every year, like we all do—and here I am.

AV: How did you get everyone else to be involved?

EP: Well, most of the community really supports the festival, and a lot of the Greek restaurateurs are all friends of mine. So we all come together when there’s a need for our church. We all try to do our part to make it better or save money, and in that manner we try to donate as much as we can. So it’s part belonging to our church and our community.

AV: For people who don’t know, what is the Greek Festival?

EP: What it is...a lot of eating...we have different boutique areas where you can buy authentic Greek jewelry, Greek albums, tapes, videos. We have a wonderful cafe area where you can come and enjoy some Greek coffee. We have a lot of music, a lot of dancing. This year, especially, we’re very proud to announce that we have a dancing group coming in from Greece...they’ll be performing throughout the three-day event. Last but not least our food, which is all homemade at our church by our parishoners—you can have from souvlaki to spanikopita to rice pudding to anything your heart desires. So come on down, enjoy yourself. Dance, drink and become Greek for a couple of days—you’ll enjoy it.

AV: The church has gone through remodeling. Do you think the festival was hindered by the fire?

EP: No, I think as a community we really got stronger since the fire. I think we wanted to make the festival better. I think the city of Buffalo and our neighbors really gathered around us to help us with the tough times that we had to go through with the church...so I think no. It made it better. We got much closer as a parish and as a community, and the city of Buffalo really helped us through some hard times.

AV: How can people help out?

EP: Come on down and volunteer. You do not have to be Greek to volunteer. Please. The doors are open for everybody. The community will welcome you. You can participate in helping us clean tables...work around where they are making the souvlakis...the bar...we look forward to everybody coming to help us by volunteering to benefit the church.