Dedication Planned for St. Nicholas Chapel Park in Vatoussa,
Lesvos, 1-3 August 2008

Read Greek version of release.

Rye, NH, USA and Vatoussa, Lesvos, Greece--The Christos and Mary Papoutsy Foundation for the Revitalization of Vatoussa Board announced plans for extensive celebrations memorializing the grand opening of the new St. Nicholas park and amphitheater in Vatoussa, Lesvos. Working together with the Local Council of Vatoussa, the Board has scheduled a series of speakers and special presentations on August 1-3, 2008. Local and national dignitaries, as well as performing artists, have been invited to the three-day gala. Board President, Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou, and President of the Vatoussa Local Council, Mr. Avel Spanelli, both extend warm invitations to the public to attend the events whose schedule will be released shortly.

Christos and Mary Papoutsy Park in Vatoussa, Lesvos.

George Sosonides, a leading Greek architect based in Kalloni, Lesvos, drew up plans for the entire project, including the erection of a three-hundred-foot-long, hand-crafted masonry retaining wall and front entry. For months, villagers and stone masons scoured all quarries and razing sites for local stones suitable for the project. Local craftsmen toiled busily under the guidance of a master-builder, Mr. Vyron Michalakellis, to incorporate the specially selected materials into the construction. Because Vatoussa had been designated a traditional, historic village by the Greek government, construction of the park fell under strict regulations enacted to preserve the historic architecture and appearance of the village. The hand-hewn local stone of the completed park and amphitheater blend in with the style of the village. The Demos of Antissis-Eressou generously donated additional lighting along the approaching roadway to the park, while Mr. Nikos Economides designed and installed outdoor lighting for the entire park, including specialized lighting for evening performances at the amphitheater. Overhead and walkway lights impart a festive atmosphere to the complex, as they enhance patron safety.

Panoramic front view of park.

Master masons Kostas Imbrushi (far left), Menelas
Kupes (second from left), and Spyros Kupes (second
from right), post with Christos Papoutsy (center) and
supervisor Vyron Mchalakellis (far right).

Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou (left) and Mr. Christos
Papoutsy (center) meet with mayor of the demos, 
Mr. Abatzis

During a recent visit to Vatoussa, Christos and Mary Papoutsy reviewed the park's completion, including major renovations of the chapel funded by the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Metamorphosis organization. Rest areas within the complex received park benches this spring, as well as additional landscaping. Ornamental bushes enhance the wrought-iron frontgate and stone walls of the park. Masons extended stone-paved walkways begun last year by an Athens-based volunteer youth organization, while local builders added final touches to the covered barbecue pit, fountain, and restrooms. Ancillary park structures complement the outdoor 500-seat amphitheater to ensure that the entire village can enjoy the grounds during holidays and special events.

The St. Nicholas Park project received approval and full support from the local Greek Orthodox hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mithymna, and the Archdiocese of Greece headquartered at Athens, whose representatives are expected to attend the inaugural festivities.

Construction of the project began in 2003 and proceeded in stages. Its cost has been about USD$300,000, with some monies contributed by Vatoussans and descendants abroad. Mr. Panagiotis Malamellis, a noted local painter, held an art exhibition in Boston (The Greek Institute, June 2001) in support of the park during its design-phase.

Covered grilling pit of the park.

Members of the Foundation Board have worked tirelessly since the inception of the project to oversee its implementation and to transform this geographically beautiful site into one of the major attractions of the village. Working together with President Stavrkaglou have been Mr. Ioannis Manoukas, Mr. Evangelos Gdontellis, Mr. Avel Spanellis, Mr. Babis Kontoutsikos, Mrs. Irini Kallontzis, Mr. Dimitris Paptsas, Fr. Evangelos Ververis, Mrs. Ioanna Sfekas Karvelas, and Christos and Mary Papoutsy. Mr. Ioannis Mamatzis and Mr. Dimitris Konstantellis also fulfilled terms on the board, rotating out of the foundation with the completion of their service as officers of the organizations they represented. The mission of the foundation is to benefit the "public welfare and the preserve the history, physiognomy and tradition of the village of Vatoussa," as well as to enhance "its beautification" and to work to improve the "standard of living and quality of life of its residents." During its first years, the foundation undertook a wide range of significant and successful projects on behalf of the village: installation of heat at the local church, Koimisis tis Theotokou; installation of air-conditioning systems into the function hall of the Metamorphosis organization; organization and installation of a climatization system in a small ecclesiastical museum; initiation of annual winter outings for elderly residents; establishment of a program to assist needy residents; purchase of a piano for two local youth choral groups whose formal music lessons were also sponsored by the foundation; organization of village clean-up days; a civil engineering study of the village structures. But the completion of the St. Nicholas Park project is the most significant work of the foundation to date. For many decades, villagers strolled along the approach to the park during warm summer evenings, hoping to see improvements to the site. One villager summed up the feelings of all Vatoussans about this latest project: it is "the realization of a long-held dream for local residents."

Park chapel

Amphitheater and chapel
About Vatoussa

Once the summer retreat of Byzantine royal families and their skilled artisans, the refreshing breezes of Vatoussa still beckon yearly visitors to the mountainous foothills of Lesvos. Built upward along a hillside, Vatoussa draws a loyal, repeat crowd to her pastel-stuccoed houses crowded along narrow, cobblestoned streets which wind sinuously upward to green forests and island walking trails. Visitors find Vatoussa a cultural gem, with her small local museum and art gallery, upper and lower squares, and traditional coffeehouses serving homemade dishes. Equally noteworthy are two churches, also built during the 1800s. Byzantine and post-Byzantine-style images adorn the interior of these three-aisled basilicas. The hand-carved wooden iconostaseis of the main church is of especially fine craftsmanship. Recently the village renovated several older homes in the best locations of the village and turned them into small pensions with modern facilities. The hillside village boasts a cobbler's shop, two barbershops, two bakeries, several traditional cafes and stores, restaurants, and small pensions—all still in operation. Vendors arrive daily to sell fresh produce and fish to the villagers or outlying hamlets of Pterounda, Revma, and Hidira.

Although a number of Vatoussans today are skilled tradespeople, there are many prominent scholars who were born and raised there. Among them are theologians, professors, archbishops, school directors, writers, and poets. Noted Vatoussa artists and musicians have also made their mark. Villagers remain justifiably proud of their heritage and their hometown and extend a hearty, traditional welcome to all who visit there.

Vatoussa panorama painted by Panagiotis Malamelis, noted island artist
About Lesvos

One of the largest islands of the Aegean, it lies near the coast of Asia Minor between Chios and Lemnos, with two deep bays that give it the appearance of a plane-tree leaf. First-time visitors to this island remark that their impression of it is of sheer beauty, as it emerges from the deep, blue Aegean.

Silvery beaches, blossoming valleys and forested heights combine with an abundance of radiant sunlight to make this fertile and ancient isle intoxicating. A vast range of vegetation, from the silvery olive tree and the dark green pine to the simple wildflowers adorn this Hellenic gem. Geological and ornithological treasures beckon. Lesvos is home to a petrified forest and hosts hundreds of rare and exotic bird species on major migratory routes. The island's natural beauty and extensive history have inspired famed poets over many centuries, from Alcaeus and Terpander of ancient eras, to Palamas, Eftaliotis and Nobel-prize winning Elytis.

Park entry shown from amphitheater's orchestra.

For more information about the dedication:

In the U.S. and Canada, Contact Melissa Dickinson at (telephone) +1 (603) 379-8140 or (fax) +1 (603) 379-8141. In Greece, contact Foundation Board President, Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou, in Kalloni, Lesvos at (telephone) +30 22530 22102.

(Posting date 30 May 2008)

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