Want a mouth-watering recipe? Start with about 900 pounds of butter and 1,300 pounds each of flour and sugar. Gather about 355 pounds of walnuts, 610 pounds of pasta and 308 gallons of milk. Add in 1,200 pounds of ground beef, 610 pounds of phyllo dough and a year’s worth of planning. Give the whole thing — plus 9,000 or so chicken legs — to volunteer cooks and bakers who spend hundreds of hours creating delectable dishes.
Ready to eat? Welcome to the 64th annual Greek Bazaar from Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, set for Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 5-6.
“We’re giving back to the community,” says Spencer Phillips, church president and a Lancaster physician. “They see who we are, and we see who they are.”
One-third of all profits goes to local charities. Alexandra Schramm, who has co-chaired the bazaar since 2012, estimates that the event distributed about $60,000 last year to area organizations, such as the Lancaster County Food Hub.
In addition, money raised pays for a church-sponsored grocery distribution every other Thursday and for gift cards that go to those who need them. “It’s really about helping us help the community,” Schramm says.
The church once again will operate a four-lane drive-thru in its parking lot at 64 Hershey Ave. The event, which in past years has offered indoor seating, previously offered Greek music, dances, crafts and church tours.
The festival transformed to its current mode in 2020 because of the pandemic. Church members considered hosting an on-site, open event this year, but decided in July to keep the bazaar outside.
The festival, though, means much more than a fundraiser for church members.
“People grew up as children doing this,” Schramm says.
Andrea Phillips, the church president’s wife, has attended most of the festivals during her almost 64 years. Her mother, Nena Valavanes, led pastry makers until her death about 10 years ago. Phillips, who helped her mother at the bazaar while she was growing up, soon took over the task.
“It’s a family affair,” the Lititz resident says, noting that her eldest grandchild, now 6, is mature enough to carry honey ball containers from the church’s basement kitchen upstairs to the main kitchen.
Christine Speros was 19 and fresh out of high school when she attended the first bazaar in 1958. Speros’ mother and other women made Greek pastries at home, but main dishes consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers and sub sandwiches. “All the youth was involved,” she recalls.
Speros, now 83, still volunteers by picking and preparing grape leaves. “It’s a way to give back,” she says.
The Greek Bazaar also provides a way to connect people and forge relationships.
“It’s wonderful fellowship, especially after the pandemic,” Speros notes. “We have women in their 90s coming with walkers” to volunteer.
“We have a lot of fun together,” says Helen Hazatones, who makes honey ball desserts (loukoumathes). Hazatones started as a honey ball runner when she was about 8. As an adult, she recalls gathering with her sisters and other volunteers in the church’s basement kitchen, which had enough space to let their young children play nearby during baking. Many of those youngsters, now adults, will volunteer during the bazaar.
On a more serious note, Andrea Phillips credits the bazaar for her ability to walk. She contracted a staph infection as a Lancaster newborn, and by the time doctors diagnosed her, Phillips’ left side had been damaged.
Unable to walk on her own, Phillips wore leg braces while her parents carried her. When she was 3, Phillips drew the attention of a Washington D.C.-based physical therapist who came in for the bazaar. This woman recommended that Phillips see a surgeon in the nation’s capital.
Several surgeries followed. “I remember walking before I was in kindergarten,” Phillips recalls. “I have an emotional attachment to the bazaar.”
The two-day event starts Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s hours run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Each $17 ticket will buy a platter of Greek pastries or a platter of a Greek-style chicken leg, pastitsio, a kind of lasagna; spanakopita, a spinach and cheese pastry; Greek salad and a roll.
Drive-thru customers also may buy frozen a la carte items, such as yiaprakia, stuffed grape leaves with meat, spices and rice; pastitsio, moussaka and spanakopita and a variety of desserts.
The bazaar will occupy the church’s parking lot at 64 Hershey Ave. in Lancaster. Online orders will be accepted until 10 p.m. Nov. 4 at annunciation