Festival celebrates Greek culture, food

Opa!

This Greek expression for celebration certainly resonated throughout the festival crowd.

The familiar wave of music, dancing and traditional Greek cuisine attracted scores of visitors from Greensboro this past weekend.

The annual Greek Festival held at the Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church took place Friday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Sept. 18. The festival allows people to experience Greek food and performances.

Festival goers reveled in the excited atmosphere of the event.

“It’s awesome because of the energy, the dancing and the music,” said Twyla Stroder about her first experience at the festival. “It’s truly a combination of everything.”

The performances highlighted horos, a Greek dance style. Dancers wore Hellenic Greek clothing called that added to the dance sequences. The younger dancers wore red and blue, while the senior dance troupe wore white and black, called fustanellas.

“It gives me a rush of energy, and I am doing it with a close-knit group of people who I love,” said high school performer Juliana Ganim. “We always have fun together. It’s like a big family. The people are so welcoming.”

The dancers and the audience shared this sense of family. During performances, audience members enthusiastically clapped along to show support.

“Beyond regular dancing, what makes Greek dancing special to me is the faith that we all share,” said dancer and Early College sophomore Nina Palamaris.

Instructor Barbara Vaughan helped coordinate the dances.

“Sometimes people come just to see the dancers,” said Vaughan, who has been coaching performers for almost a decade. “It’s a big attraction. I like working with the kids to celebrate our Greek culture.”

Aside from the dances, a live band and singer performed for the three-day period of the festival. The music was a combination of violin, keyboard and vocals.

Visitors watched performances while savoring classic Greek dishes. Tents were set up around the perimeter, each with lines of people waiting to get a taste of Greek food. The various options included pita, Greek Salad, and souvlaki, pork garnished with potatoes, onions and tomatoes.

“I come every year and go straight to the food,” said Arianna Harkins with a laugh. “The food makes the festival fun and interesting.”

Desserts like baklava and loukoumades, Greek-style donuts drizzled with honey, were popular among festival-goers.

Visitors shopped for souvenirs at the Greek Market that was set up inside the church. These included toys, t-shirts, scarves and many other clothing items. There were also vibrant displays of jewelry to choose from.

The festival serves to illuminate Greek culture and simultaneously unites a diverse group of people.

“I enjoy that it brings the community together,” said Master of Ceremonies Kiki Tarasidis who has been a festival emcee for 15 years.

“People feel like they are part of something as one. We make people feel included and get them on their feet.”

The festival attendees were a diverse group.

“I like the food and the cultural aspect of the dancing,” said Sarah Simaan, who has been coming to the festival from a young age with her family. “But it is also exciting to me because there are so many different people here from different cultures.”

The combination of good food, dances and atmosphere contribute to the widespread popularity of the Greensboro Greek Festival each year. The event is a fun and lively way to get out and celebrate.

As Vaughan described, the festival brings great “kefi,” Greek for spirit of life and joy, to Greensboro.