Greek-American Fest set for Sept. 7-9Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Toledoans have the chance to share the local Greek community’s dances, faith, music — and most importantly food — at the 42nd annual Greek-American Festival on Sept. 7-9.
“It’s a fun time. It’s an opportunity where we open our doors to the great people of Toledo and welcome them as our guests and share our culture, our faith with them,” said the Rev. Aristotle Damaskos, dean of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
The food and pastries are the most popular offerings at the festival, said George Sarantou, the festival’s publicity chairman and Toledo city councilman. The festival was started in 1970 after two restaurateurs observed successful Greek festivals in other cities.
“[The festival] has gotten bigger and better. There are more food offerings than ever, more pastries,” Sarantou said.
Three $10 dinner platters will be available at the food tent and other items like rice pudding, chicken oregano and shish kabobs will be offered a la carte during the festival. Gyros and saganaki, flaming cheese, will be offered at the fast food tent. Pastries like baklava and macaroons will be available in the community center and beer and wine are offered at the taverna.
While he enjoys the lamb shanks, Damaskos said, “There are a lot of foods I like. I’m a spiritual leader, but they call me the spiritual eater.”
“Greek people by their nature are very welcoming. When you go to a Greek home, you cannot leave a Greek home unless you’ve been eating something that’s been offered to you,” Sarantou said.
Festival-goers can learn how to make Greek food themselves courtesy of cooking demonstrations. Becky Skiadas will demonstrate how to prepare saganaki at 7 p.m. Sept. 7. Presbytera Ann Hadgigeorge will prepare tiropitas (cheese pie) at 6 p.m Sept. 8 and Roula Manton will demonstrate karithopita (walnut cake) at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 9. George Kamilaris will prepare pastichio (Greek lasagna) at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 9.
The popular cookbook compiled by Holy Trinity parishioners “Olives, Feta, Phyllo & More” will also be available at the festival. The cookbook contains more than 500 Greek and American recipes and information on why the parishioner chose to contribute that recipe.
“[The cookbook has] obviously chocolate-chip cookies as well as baklava,” Sarantou said.
“It has really been received well,” Damaskos said. “I use it all the time when I cook. My wife does, too.”
The Hellenic Dance Company will also perform at the festival. The dancers have been practicing all summer and will wear Greek costumes.
“People love to see those very colorful, imported Greek costumes,” Sarantou said. “They just do a fabulous show.”
The shows, featuring different age and skill levels, are 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sept. 7, 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Sept. 8 and 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sept. 9.
The Detroit-based band Levendes will perform during the festival as will the Cleveland-based Olympus. When the bands aren’t playing, a CD will keep the music going, Sarantou said.
There will also be chances to learn about Greek culture at the festival. At 8 p.m. Sept. 7 in the community center, Dawn Anagnos will present “Greek Language 101” and at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 8, she will present “Greek Culture Olympics.” At 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9, Seminarian David Mynihan will showcase ““My Big Fat Greek Orthodox Baptism.”
Damaskos will run tours of Holy Trinity at 6 p.m. Sept. 7, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 and 3 p.m. Sept. 9. Self-guided tours are available from noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 7 and 8 and noon-7 p.m. Sept. 9. The cathedral was built in 1919.
Sarantou said he expects 20,000-25,000 people to attend the festival.
“Everyone really enjoys sharing Greek culture,” Sarantou said. “There’s not a large Greek community in Toledo, but it’s a very strong Greek community.”
Adult admission is free 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 7 and $4 the rest of Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. Admission for adults is $1 Sept. 9. Children younger than 12 get in free with a guardian. Funds from the festival help with Holy Trinity’s ministry and outreach. Festival entrances are at Walnut and Superior streets and at Summit and Walnut streets. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sept. 7, noon to midnight Sept. 8 and noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 9.