Greensboro Greek Festival celebrates culture, engages community over this past weekend

essica Oberlies, (left), and Betselot Tessema eat gyros and take a break from performing at the 2017 Greensboro Greek Festival.//Photo by Julia Martins de Sa/The Guilfordian

Carefree dancing, lively music, delicious food and a welcoming ambiance. The 2017 Greensboro Greek Festival was home to all of these this past weekend.

Thousands of people came from all over the Triad to listen to the live band play both modern and traditional Greek songs, and to watch the dance performances that accompanied them.

This year, non-perishable canned goods were an accepted form of admission as opposed to the usual one dollar per head admission fee. The canned goods were accepted on behalf of a number of the charities that the Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church supports.

Sterling Wilson, a senior at Grimsley High School, attended the festival on Friday, Sept. 29.

“I think that it’s really great how they take in the canned goods instead of having to pay,” said Wilson. “I’m assuming that they help people out with that, and I really respect that.”

A new addition to this year’s festival was the performance by the Evzones. The young men, who represent the Presidential Guard of the Greek Army, came from Charlotte to perform.

The guardsmen, dressed in the traditional uniform of the Evzone soldiers, carried around unloaded rifles and were available to take pictures while they were not practicing their “changing of the guard” routines.

Stephen Zangotsis, one of the guardsman, said that the Evzones had the freedom to essentially perform any routine of their choosing, a fresh change from performing at the Charlotte Greek Festival.

The festival also featured three groups of dancers, the elementary, middle and high school groups, who performed both traditional and modern Greek dances. In total, they performed 11 times over the course of the weekend.

Betselot Tessema, a member of the high school group of dancers, also called “The Opa Dancers,” has been performing at the festival for 11 years.

“What’s a Greek Fest if my feet aren’t killing me by the end?” she joked. “Even so, dancing is my favorite part. Even within the (group of) dancers, there are a lot of different cultures in it and a lot of different kinds of people come here with their cultures. That’s my favorite part. That, and the food.”

The festival offered a large variety of Greek cuisine, from full chicken and braised lamb platters to gyros to a vast collection of pastries and desserts.

The dessert line inside one of the church buildings featured 14 different kinds of homemade Greek pastries, including kok, a kind of chocolate cake, and baklava.

Also inside the church, there was a small gift shop that offered products directly from Greece such as scarves, jewelry, t-shirts, small figurines and more for purchase.

In the outdoor area of the festival, the smells of the fried potato wedges, falafel pitas and gyros filled the air. There was a booth set up for alcohol stocked with wine and tap beers to accompany the food.

When night fell, the tent and eating area were illuminated with fairy string lights, giving off a warm and relaxed ambiance. Festival attendees watched dance performances while sipping on wine and eating loukoumades, small fried balls of dough coated with honey and cinnamon.

For children, the festival offered two large bounce houses, as well as face painting and a booth for balloon animals. There was also a Spartan warrior walking around the festival, stopping to pose for pictures and entertain the younger attendees.

The festival saw thousands of people this year, and those who attended left feeling appreciative of the Greek culture.

“Of course. Yes,” said attendee Graycon Oxendine-Parr, also a Grimsley High School senior, when asked if she would attend again. “We came, we were dancing and we had such a good time. We did not do that well, but it was great.”

The Greek Festival was a major hit, one that will continue to be talked about for a while in the Greensboro community.