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Greek-American Festival starts with a bang

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    Helen Matthews, of Toledo, prepares loukoumathes during the Toledo Greek-American Festival.

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    Kids with the Ellinopedia Dance Group perform during the Toledo Greek American-Festival.

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    Andy Petros, of Toledo, prepares pork souvlaki during the Toledo Greek-American Festival outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.

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    Ellinopedia Dance Group during the Toledo Greek American Festival outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

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    David Jenkins, of Perrysburg, enjoys some Greek food during the Toledo Greek-American Festival outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo.

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    Tina Papalekas, left, and Helen Matthews, both of Toledo, prepare loukoumathes.

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    Loukoumathes are prepared during the Toledo Greek-American Festival outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

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    Friends, family and other attendees watch performers from the Ellinopedia Dance Group.

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    Dimitrios Mitsopoulos, front, Andy Petros, both of Toledo, prepare pork souvlaki.

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    Ellinopedia Dance Group circles up during the Toledo Greek American Festival outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

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    Pete Petros, of Toledo, prepares gyros.

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Don Ruggles glanced at a list of Greek words on the menu and quickly ordered several items.

“It’ not all Greek to me,” said the 40-year-old Cygnet, Ohio, resident with no Greek roots  known to him. “We come here every year and we know what we want. ... We love it here.”

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Helen Matthews, of Toledo, prepares loukoumathes during the Toledo Greek-American Festival.

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Mr. Ruggles and two of his children were among hundreds of people at the 48th annual Greek-American Festival at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 740 N. Superior St., as the three-day event kicked off Friday afternoon in North Toledo.

Balancing trays of souvlaki, moussaka, tiropitas, pastichio, Greek green beans, and rice pudding in their hands, Mr. Ruggles and his children found seats at a table in a spacious food court. As soon as they sat down, they dug into their food. 

As people at the court ate, some others headed to the church building and then to a coffee stand — traditionally, one of the busiest places on the grounds — where American and Greek coffees were served, with a stand nearby offering numerous Greek pastries such as baklava, diples, galaktobouriko, kourambiethes, koulourakia, and macaroons, as well as loukoumathes and baklava ice cream.

VIDEO: Children dance at Greek-American Festival

About the same time — about 5:30 p.m. — scores of people assembled just outside the church to watch a Greek dancing performance by The Ellinopedia dance group of children ages 2½ and up.

“I am a genuine Greek and I enjoy it here, especially the little dancers,” Kypros Proestos, 75, of Toledo and originally of Cyprus, said, adding that he is a grandfather to five of them.

Not far from him, Paula Apostolou of Toledo, a dance teaching assistant for the festival, watched the dancers without taking her eyes off them.

“I like watching the kids dance. ... I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl,” Ms. Apostolou, 38, said, adding that both her parents came from Greece and that they met at the festival in the 1970s.  

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Ellinopedia Dance Group during the Toledo Greek American Festival outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

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Besides souvlaki, moussaka, tiropitas, pastichio, Greek green beans, and rice pudding, food at the festival traditionally includes spanakopita, shish kabob, chicken oregano, dolmathes, and rice pilaf. There also are gyros, lamb shank, saganaki, or flaming cheese, Greek salad, spanakopita, and Greek pizza.

Musical entertainment this year is by the Musicians of Olympus, a Cleveland-based Greek band.

Highlights include cathedral tours, Greek dancing performances, Greek language and cultural presentation, and cooking presentations. Children’s activities feature rides and face painting.

The hours are 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 Saturday, $3 Sunday, and free for children 12 and under accompanied by a parent. For additional information, go to toledogreekfest.com/.

This year’s festival is dedicated to Christos Theodorou, its longtime co-chairman, who died June 5 after a 15-month battle with leukemia, according to a written statement posted at the festival grounds by organizers.

Said Mr. Proestos, “I think, the festival is very important to promote and preserve the heritage of Greek people.”

Contact Mike Sigov at sigov@theblade.com419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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