VALLEJO — Arnold Dorer is an inoculated Greek.
“When I married her, I married the whole catastrophe,” Dorer said in jest, paraphrasing a quote from “Zorba the Greek.”
He and his wife, Mary Dorer, have been married 48 years. Their wedding took place at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church. Mary Dorer is one of the church’s original members.
The couple is very active at the church, which will celebrate its 65th anniversary in November.
Celebratory plans will come after the church hosts its 36th annual Greek Festival on Saturday and Sunday. The event was suggested by Jerry Nicolatos. The original proceeds went toward building a Greek amphitheater at then-Vallejo Junior High.
“The church got nothing,” Dorer said.
The festival is now the church’s main fundraiser. This year, a portion will be donated toward developing a Hellenic Park on land by the church. Plans for the land include additional parking, a picnic area and possibly a Greek deli to be housed in the old post office building on neighboring Amador Street.
Bringing the two-day event to fruition is the work of about a 10 women, many of them from Fairfield – such as Magda McPherson, who heads up the festival.
McPherson, who was born and raised in Greece, helped other women make kataifi on a recent morning. They separated thin strands of phyllo pastry that resemble angel hair pasta. The shredded dough was loosely shaped into rectangular shapes, then filled with chopped walnuts and spices.
They would be baked in a few days to be fresh for the festival.
A few steps away, Nitsa Brodeur was making baklava. A huge baking pan in front of her, she struggled to separate the phyllo dough she needed, but easily mastered the art of patchwork with the dough.
LIke kataifi, baklava uses walnuts and spices for its center. However, it’s a different blend of spices, Brodeur said.
“Lots of butter,” she said is the secret to what makes the sweet treat irresistible.
Brodeur also grew up in Greece and, like McPherson, married an American military man and settled in a new land. The two women have worked on the festival for many years.
“The Vallejo community expects it,” Brodeur said of the event. “They look forward to it.”
The women don’t get to enjoy the festival in the traditional sense of getting around to see everything. For them, it’s the smiles and laughter that makes the work worthwhile.
“To see all these people so happy,” Brodeur said. “That’s our pleasure.”
Preparation begins about two months before the event. The women will bake or do prep work about eight hours a day this week until the festival.
Mary Phomas, also of Fairfield, took her turn Monday morning working on baklava. She started helping out about a decade ago, after retiring from civil service work on Travis Air Force Base.
When asked what the festival means to her, Phomas replied in jest, “A lot of work.”
“It’s really about people getting together and having fun,” she said.
There’s plenty of fun to be had, as Mediterranean Soul will provide dancing music. A group of young people studying Greek dancing will be on hand to help those giving Greek dancing a try for the first time.
The church will also be open for tours.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.