'Baking brigade' goes Greek

The Cranston Herald ·

Although the 33rd Annual Cranston Greek Festival doesn’t open until Friday afternoon at 5 p.m., Koula Rougas issued a host of “thank yous” to people in regard to the three-day event’s Pastry Shoppe.

Rougas, who chairs and coordinates the Church of the Annunciation’s famed ‘baking brigade,’ was speaking about the many volunteers who spend countless hours preparing the 40,000 pieces of Greek pastry that will be sold this weekend under two of at least a dozen on the parish’s grounds at 175 Oaklawn Avenue.

When asked exactly how many hands it takes to make the ever-popular diples, Rougas replied, “As many as we can get. We had many volunteers of all ages who came to help this year and we are very grateful.”

Rougas also wanted it known: “Each year the hands of volunteers make our festival a success. We are grateful to them and also to the thousands of patrons who come to support us. We are thrilled with the presence of so many young volunteers during pastry preparation as they learn the art of Greek baking and hope they will continue to carry on this tradition for many years to come.”

The long-standing volunteer, who also lends her talents to the award-winning Odyssey Dance Troupe that’s directed by her son Dr. Stephen Rougas and will put on five exciting shows during this weekend’s festival, also noted: “Each piece of pastry requires many different steps and that takes a lot of hands.”

The diples, which are fried strips of flaky thin dough stopped with chopped walnuts, cinnamon and Greek honey syrup, requires five different steps.

Volunteers first make the dough, roll it into trips, fry it, make honey syrup and then cover the diples with the latter to give it that special taste. The diples are likened to the Italian-wandie like pastry.

The process is similar for the nine other sweet items that will probably be sold out when the event closes on Sunday around 9 p.m.

Through the years, the Cranston Greek Festival, which began many moons ago as a one-day picnic when Church of the Annunciation was based on Pine Street in Providence, attendance has soared into the thousands because of the Greek pastry and food.

When asked which pastry is the most popular, Rougas – as she kept rolling more just-made dough with other volunteers – replied: “Just about every pastry we make but the most popular are baklava and rice pudding.”

She said the pastry goes quite well at the Greek Coffee House, another of many offerings at the annual festival, as well as with those delicious dinners like roast lamb, souvlaki, roast chicken and pastitsio dinners as well as the baked fish that will only be available during opening night Friday.

Many different side dishes like Greek style potatoes, dolmades which are grape leaves, salad and those highly-popular gyro sandwiches will be available for three days starting Friday around 5 o’clock.

Festival goers will also have a chance to win cash prizes of $2,500, $1,000 and $500 in the annual raffle.

One of the Greek Festival most popular offerings is the free shuttle service that proud parishioners sponsor each and every year.

“We can’t place a value on the shuttle service,” noted Theofanis “Frank” Markos, who has chaired the festival for nearly two decades. “People who come to the festival love it.”

People are urged to park in the Cranston High School West parking lot off Curtis Street and buses leave every 10 minutes and take patrons directly to the festival right in front of the Church of the Annunciation on Oaklawn Avenue.

So, it’s the 33rd Annual Three-Day fun and food fest that is expected to draw upwards of 30,000 people – perhaps more – this weekend. Markos said all booths, including a bar, will be open Friday from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.; Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.