It was a busy Saturday for Mondo Katselis, part of the crew that made 1,400-some kourambiethes (powdered-sugar cookies) Saturday in the kitchen at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church.

Katselis, in her 45th year baking for GreekFest, said this year, preparations have been more painstaking than ever.

Kourabiethes rest after getting a fresh coat of powdered sugar on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Kourabiethes rest after getting a fresh coat of powdered sugar on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

“It’s a lot of work, but we’ll get it done,” she said. “We want to keep on doing it for the people, and I hope they will come and support us.”

Organizer Ari Kolas hopes the same. It’s GreekFest’s first year supplying food through a drive-thru and walk-up window, and its leaders don't know what to expect. So they’ve been baking ahead of time in the same quantities as last year — enough to serve 7,000 to 8,000 people.

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That means 3,000 or 4,000 gyros, a couple thousand shish kebabs, and trays upon trays of sweets.

“We just made the same as we did last year, hoping that people will come out to support us — hoping that because we have a little smaller menu, we’ll sell a little more of each item and it’ll make up, so we don’t have a lot left over,” Kolas said.

The menu options have narrowed to the top-sellers — gyros made from shaved pork and lamb, pork souvlaki, shish kebabs with lemon seasoning, spinach and cheese pies, Greek fries, biscotti, and other desserts (like the many-layered baklava).

Salads and chicken dishes were cut because of concerns about freshness and crowding, if the cooks got a little behind and the line began to grow, Kolas said.

Penny Kolas, chairperson of the bake sale, pulls fresh Kourabiethes from the oven on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Penny Kolas, chairperson of the bake sale, pulls fresh Kourabiethes from the oven on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Everyone involved in food prep has been masked, and Kolas said food-safety mandates have been followed to the letter. The 25 or so “baklava babes” who volunteered to make that dish ahead of time, for example, had to social distance carefully, he said. During fest days, Kolas predicted that they’d see fewer volunteers at a time, but hopefully more change-out and shorter shifts.

The food itself hasn’t changed — baklava made by hand, gyros and kourambiethes made by hand in the Greek Orthodox Church kitchen.

Kourambiethes rest after getting a fresh coat of powdered sugar on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Kourambiethes rest after getting a fresh coat of powdered sugar on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
“The flavor, the taste, the aromas will all be the same as any other Greek festival,” Kolas said, recommending the souvlakis for first-time visitors (“You cannot find them anywhere else in the world, the way we make them here”).

Proceeds from the volunteer-run fest will, as always, go to Philoxenia Charities, which houses international patients at Mayo Clinic, as well as Minnesota Adult-Teen Challenge, the Dorothy Day House, and others.

“At the end of the day, we’re all volunteers for the church,” Kolas said. “We all want to get to heaven, and we figure this is the best way to do that.”

Mando Katselis, left, Froni Mangouras, Vicki Psomas and Melissa Psomas make Kourabiethes on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Mando Katselis, left, Froni Mangouras, Vicki Psomas and Melissa Psomas make Kourabiethes on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

If you go

What: GreekFest Rochester

When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28-29; 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30

Where: 703 West Center St., Rochester. Enter at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Center Street.

More information: greekfestrochester.com