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Hands join hearts to prepare foods for ethnic festivals

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    Sandy Brown slices kolbsz as volunteers prepare food for the Birmingham Ethnic Festival Friday, August 18 at Calvin United Church of Christ in East Toledo.

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    festivalmagpageXX Elizabeth Renz stacks stuffed cabbages as volunteers prepare food for the Birmingham Ethnic Festival Friday, August 18.

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    Tom Belcik stirs pots of boiling pierogis at All Saints Catholic Church in Rossford, Ohio, on Monday, June 26.

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    =Ginny Shelt pinches one of a pierogi at All Saints Catholic Church in Rossford, Ohio, on Monday, June 26. The volunteers made sure to make the edges of the cabbage pierogis to differentiate them from the potato pierogis.

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    Detail of finished kifli prepared by St. Stephen's Catholic Church volunteers for the Birmingham festival at the REACH Academy in Toledo on Saturday, August 5.

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    Carla Zsigray (cq), of Northwood, Ohio, and Mason Baker, 12, of Monroe, Mich., both St. Stephen's Catholic Church volunteers, prepare beigli for the Birmingham festival at the REACH Academy in Toledo on Saturday, August 5.

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    Irene Bland, of Oregon, Ohio, a St. Stephen's Catholic Church volunteer, rolls kifli as they prepare kifli for the Birmingham festival at the REACH Academy in Toledo on Saturday, August 5.

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    Connie Mynihan makes spanakopita (spinach pie) at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio.

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    St. Stephen's Catholic Church volunteers prepare Hungarian baked goods for the Birmingham festival at the REACH Academy in Toledo on Saturday, August 5.

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    Maria Petros cuts the spanakopita (spinach pie) at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio.

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    Pierogis boil at All Saints Catholic Church in Rossford, Ohio, on Monday, June 26.

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    Stuffed cabbage rolls are lined up as volunteers prepare food for the Birmingham Ethnic Festival Friday, August 18.

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Throughout the summer, the Toledo area is home to ethnic festivals full of music, dancing, and traditional treats. What does it take to feed the thousands who attend these cultural celebrations?

Connie Mynihan coordinates the pastry workshops for the Greek-American Festival being held Sept. 8 to 10 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 740 N. Superior St., in downtown Toledo. Food preparations began in June with tiropita (phyllo-wrapped pies), proceeded through July and August with baklava and cookies, and will finish with diples (honey-dipped pastry spirals) just in time for the party. Savory items include 13,100 dolmathes, Ms. Mynihan said.

“The ladies do all the work ... and the gentlemen,” Ms. Mynihan quickly added. And children help, too. “They come down with Grandma, and we absolutely love it.”

The Birmingham Ethnic Festival, celebrating Hungarian culture, welcomed thousands of people to East Toledo, along Consaul Street, on Aug. 19 and 20, said Kris Ruedy, one of the food preparation coordinators from St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1880 Genesee St.

Volunteers prepared 800 kifli (apricot or nut-filled cookies) and 30 2-foot long beigli (walnut-swirled breads) during one Saturday morning baking session in August, said Kathy Singlar who was coordinating the project with a room full of dedicated helpers and workers.

“We always get a nice group” of volunteers of all ages, said Ms. Ruedy. “I can’t thank them enough for coming.”

Still more classic dishes were prepared at Calvin United Church of Christ, 1946 Bakewell St., the morning before the festival. Two hundred pounds of kolbasz (sausage), 240 crescent-shaped moon cakes, and 350 crepes for palacsinta were just part of it. In the afternoon, volunteers were scheduled to prepare home-style noodles, using 250 5-pound bags of flour and 90 dozen eggs.

“Everything is a lot of work,” said Betsi Sendi while scooping the meat-and-rice filling as her group of friends prepared 600 cabbage rolls. But “we love our church. We’ll do anything for her.”

At All Saints Catholic Church, 628 Lime City Rd., Rossford, “some helpers are children, some are in their 80s; it [was] definitely a parish-wide effort” to feed the 1,000-plus attendees who came to the church’s festival on July 28 and 29, volunteer Julie Jardine said.

Over the course of successive Monday evenings in June, 10,000 pierogi were made by hand, both potato and cabbage-filled. The menu also included kielbasa, pigs in a blanket (pork-stuffed cabbage rolls), kolaches, and conventional fair foods. But “the ethnic stuff is what brings people in,” said the Rev. Anthony Recker.

“Families still make these dishes at home,” he said, though they may reserve them for special occasions, like festivals.

But “the traditions are alive and well. The traditions are still there.”

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/​thebladefoodpage, bladefoodpage on Instagram, or @BladeFoodPage on Twitter.

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