The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Greek Festival shares culture with Greensboro community

Some assignments are tougher to cover than others, so I bit the bullet and attended the Dormition of Theotokos 36th Annual Greek Festival. After spending a few years of my early “army brat” childhood living in Athens, I was anxious for a return to the culture that I remember so fondly. Well, that and the gyro. I hope you caught the smell of roasting pork and buttery goodness floating down Friendly Avenue on Sept. 17, 18, and 19. The air was thick with wood smoke and laughter as the community poured in for great food and time with friends. A huge white and blue tent sat outside the church to host dancers and family style dining tables. Inside, the church hosted a market, bake sale and buffet-style dining.

I spoke with 38 year church member David Valavanis ’78. He anticipated serving 7000 to 8000 people over the weekend, dishing up 1800 pounds of pork, 3000 chickens and 400 to 500 pounds of rice.

“The men rally for two days to prepare the pork and chicken and the women spend months preparing the baked goods,” Valavanis said. “This is a time to see Greek culture and experience real, authentic Greek food.”

Valavanis says the festival has grown larger over the past 36 years, but the true focus here is to actively teach a new generation the ways and recipes of the old generation. The staff is composed of many young volunteers who are learning how to prepare traditional recipes from the members of the church.

My friends and I shared plates of pork souvlaki and spanikopita, both accompanied by rice, Greek style green beans, Greek salad, a roll and sweet tea for a Southern touch. The meat was tender and juicy, and the spinach pie was buttery and flaky. The big surprise was the green beans, simmered in tomatoes and garlic and absolutely delicious.

After buying a tray of luscious baked goods and a few raffle tickets, we headed to the outdoor tent for some live music and dancing.

“This makes the walking worthwhile,” said fellow diner Dennis Johnson as he dug into the baklava.

Curious for more, my friends and I walked to the front steps of the church for the church tour led by Father Thomas Newlin.

“Secularism, the demands of the outside, sports, and extracurricular activities are all distractions that cause faith to not be passed down in a family,” said Newlin at the beginning of the tour. “It’s our responsibility to carry on with the wisdom.”

We entered the narthex, where incense and candles are lit and the church members prepare to enter the sanctity of the temple. Once inside the sanctuary, Father Newlin spent the next 30 minutes telling us about the history of the Eastern Orthodox faith, surrounded by Byzantine iconography and brilliant stained glass windows.

Despite Father Newlin’s caution against the distractions of our five senses, after many years away from Greece I am once again reminded of the tastes and smells of the amazing foods, touched by the generosity of the people, lulled by the music, and witness to the joy it brings others. This is a festival true to its culture and worthy of a return visit.

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