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Published: Sunday, 9/7/2008

Greek fest features cuisine, culture

Boutique vendors Kathy Andros, left, Soteria Houlles, and Maria Papps of Sylvania share a laugh at their booth during the 38th annual Greek-American Festival in Toledo. Boutique vendors Kathy Andros, left, Soteria Houlles, and Maria Papps of Sylvania share a laugh at their booth during the 38th annual Greek-American Festival in Toledo.
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There's music, dancing, self-guided cathedral tours, cooking demonstrations, and more, but most people are at the Greek-American Festival for one reason - the food.

"We like Greek food," said Tom and Deb Hyatt, of Oregon, who yesterday were enjoying a sampler platter of the festival's offerings.

Similarly, Chris Bird, of Oregon, said she came seeking gyros and pastries.

The 38th annual festival, which began Friday, continued yesterday, and runs until 8 p.m. today at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 740 North Superior St., in downtown Toledo.

"People can learn about our culture, our traditions, and our food. Greeks are known for our food," said George Sares, the festival's chairman. "It's a fun family time."

Mr. Sares said he anticipates 20,000 visitors to the event over the weekend.

Festival-goers who come hungry can purchase Greek favorites such as spanakopita, a spinach and feta cheese dish baked in a phyllo dough crust; dolmathes, ground beef and rice in grape leaves; souvlaki, marinated pork served with rice, and many more dishes.

"Everything we [serve] here is homemade," said Pete Bekos, who was in the kitchen yesterday preparing chicken oregano, Greek-style green beans, rice pilaf, and dolmathes.

Sophia Yakumithis performs a Greek dance during the festival at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Sophia Yakumithis performs a Greek dance during the festival at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

And of course, there are Greek pastries, such as baklava, a dessert made from nuts, cinnamon, and phyllo dough; karithopita, a honey nut cake; kourambiethes, butter cookies covered in powdered sugar, and loukoumathes, deep-fried dough dipped in honey.

Mr. Sares said the women of the parish work for weeks before the festival, preparing the delicacies assembly-line style.

Harry Proestos, who also was working in the kitchen, said he and the festival's other volunteers work for the love of their church.

"It's important for us to pass on our Greek culture to our children, but also to our friends and families," Mike George, another volunteer, said.

The festival expects to serve about 25,000 pieces of pastry and 6,500 gyros over the weekend.

Olives, Feta, Phyllo & More, a cookbook with more than 500 recipes contributed by parishioners, is available for $25.

So is a homemade Greek dressing, "A Splash of the Aegean," which won a taste test at the church.

"What better experts [are there] on Greek dressing?" asked Kathy Andros, chairman of the festival's boutique area, where the cookbooks, T-shirts, jewelry, music, and other items are on sale.

"It's about abundance, it's about joy, it's about enjoying life," said Ms. Andros, trying to sum up the festival. "That's a central part of the Greek culture."

Ms. Andros and other volunteers fielded questions about Greek language and culture as well as inquiries about traveling to the Mediterranean nation.

Visitors also can watch cooking demonstrations, enjoy the Hellenic Dance Company clad in Greek native garb perform, or listen to music by DJ Achilles in the shadow of the cathedral, a Byzantine structure that opened in 1920 and whose interior is full of stained glass, mosaics, hand-painted icons, and gold leaf.

- Kate Giammarise



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