You have to get up pretty early to keep up with the ladies at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
After all, they are planning to feed an army.
Well, not an army in the defense sense. But it might as well be, when thousands of hungry visitors turn up at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Saturday and Sunday for the 55th annual Greek Food Bazaar.
It's a tradition that takes hundreds of hours and hundreds of hands to make true. Generations of returnees make the bazaar a must, and chances are, if you've been there enough, you just refer to the culinary celebration as "the Greek food festival at the Greek church." If you're a first-timer, Annunciation is located 64 Hershey Ave., on a hill near Manor Shopping Center.
And be prepared to be fed. Many who come to the festival enjoy the church's traditional platter of Greek-style chicken, pastitso (that's lasagna, Greek-fashion); yiaprakia (grape leaves stuffed with beef and rice) a salad and roll for the humble price of $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Please take note that lots of love is involved.
"We distribute tickets to over 500 parishioners. That's over 500 families," says Irene Hondras, ticket chairwoman at the food fest. Of course, that doesn't count all of the rest of the community, who also turn out for treats such as loukoumades (it's a honey-flavored cookie-style delight that is not to be missed) and chicken or pork shish-ka-bob. The latter is going to be prepared by Lancaster's own Souvlaki Boys, whose truck is something of a fixture around downtown Lancaster.
That brings us back to that military analogy. Imagining provisioning a heavily packed World War II troop ship and you will get an idea of what statistics are involved in the Greek Food Bazaar.
Think 350 pounds of flour. Forty pounds of butter. Forty dozen eggs — and that's just for the fresh-from-the-oven breads. Church members such as Alexandra Schramm, Christine Speros, Helen Hazatones and Dora Stathis are happy to point out such impressive statistics. Here's one more: some 9,000 pounds of chicken is part of the picture at the Greek Food Bazaar, which traces its origins back to the old Stahr Armory on North Queen Street.
"It's a baptism of fire," sums up Schramm, but she means that in a good way when it comes to keeping a good thing going.
If you are not into eating — but really, who isn't? — the bazaar also features shopping, where you can peruse gourmet Greek food items and take tours of the church sanctuary, where Greek Orthodox icons are on display. No matter what you show up to see, the bazaar is not a small effort.
"[It's] teamwork. It's not one person," Schramm says.