Festival shares Greek culture, foodWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A wider array of food than ever before will be available when the 41st annual Greek-American Festival comes to Downtown Toledo starting Sept. 9.
“Our goal is to share Greek culture and Greek food, and the customs and the Greek Orthodox faith with the greater Toledo community,” festival publicity chairman and Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou said. “When we started in 1970, I don’t think anybody thought it would be as big as it is. We have a lot of people that come year after year and enjoy the food, music and dancing. It’s been a great journey.”
According to Sarantou, the festival has practically doubled in size since it started, with more activities and a wider variety of food now available.
The Levendes will play Greek and American music at the festival on Sept. 9 and 10, and the Greek techno band Olympus will play Sept. 11. The Levendes is a five-piece band from Detroit with guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals and a Greek instrument called a bouzouki.
The festival also features the Hellenic Dance Company, which will perform every day of the festival in imported Greek costumes.
Food will be available at the Gourmet Food Tent, the Fast Food Tent and in the Kafenion. The Gourmet Food Tent features three dinner platters for $10 each, including a sampler platter with moussaka, spanakopita, tiropitas and dolmathes. The Kafenion features coffee and thousands of Greek pastries. The Fast Food Tent has Gyros, Greek fries, Greek pizza, hot dogs and a new dish called saganaki.
“We think that’s going to go over pretty well, especially during the night hours,” Sarantou said. “We use kasseri cheese and set it on fire. It is very theatrical. It’s also very tasty.”
Sarantou said his favorite Greek food is chicken oregano with rice. He also enjoys pastichio, a type of Greek lasagna.
Festivalgoers can learn to cook several of these dishes at one of four cooking demonstrations. Susan Sieben will cook loukoumades at 7 p.m. Sept. 9. Maria Kopan will cook kourambiethes at 6 p.m. Sept. 10. On Sept. 11, Karen George will cook spanakopita at 2:30 p.m. and George Kamilaris will make moussaka at 4 p.m.
Anyone interested in learning more can also pick up “Olives, Feta, Phyllo & More,” a cookbook created by the parishioners of Holy Trinity Cathedral containing more than 500 Greek and American recipes.
“One of the biggest things we’ve done in the last couple years is the parish put together a cookbook of more than 500 Greek recipes,” Sarantou said. “It’s selling well at the festival and on the Internet. It’s sold all over the country. People want to learn about Greek food. A cookbook is very entertaining and useful for people. Mediterranean food is much more popular now than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
At 1:30 p.m. Sept. 11, Father Aristotle Damaskos is going to present “My Big Fat Greek Wedding: The Truth” in the Cathedral. This will be a reenactment of a Greek Orthodox wedding service with a bride, a groom and a kombara.
“That’s going to be neat,” Sarantou said. “A lot of people that come to Greek weddings are amazed at how pretty they are and all the symbolism. He’s going to do that and explain the service to people.”
At 1 p.m. on Sept. 11 the festival will have a memorial service marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in front of the stage. They will have an American Legion Post attending to do a 21-gun salute and play taps.
Admission to the festival is free from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 9. Admission is $4 after 3 p.m. Sept. 9 and 10 and $1 on Sept. 11. Children 12 and younger are admitted free with a parent or guardian. The festival is located on Summit Street with entrances at Walnut and Superior streets. Visit ToledoGreekFest.com for more information.