Greece may be more than 5,000 miles away, but the Greek Festival brings a snapshot of the country’s culture to Winston-Salem’s doorstep each year.
From homemade Greek cuisine to authentic costumes and dance routines, the festival, which begins today, is a chance to get immersed in all things Greek.
“Greece is very geographically isolated, so different regions of the country have developed subcultures with different sounds, different instruments and different types of dance,” said Stephen Karagiorgis, dance coordinator for the festival. “It’s a very small country, but very rich in culture.”
The festival — held at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church at 435 Keating Drive — will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $1 and free for children younger than 12.
While maintaining all the things people have grown to love about the festival — which has been a fixture in the city for more than 25 years — organizers plan some additions this year.
The menu has been expanded to include Greek-style roasted corn, Greek yogurt with various toppings and a smorgasbord of homemade mouthwatering pastries.
New pastry creations include Rizogalo (Greek rice pudding), Kok (chocolate and vanilla cream puffs), Diples (strips of fried dough, rolled with honey), Amygdalota (almond cookies), baklava cheesecake and baklava brownies.
“That’s the fun part: discovering all those new tastes,” said Jennifer Chrysson, media coordinator for the church. “My favorite part is always the baklava ice cream. It is to die for, just an amazing mouthwatering experience.”
Fan favorites, like souvlaki, gyro and moussaka, will remain on the menu and a limited takeout menu with 12 items will also be available.
For those with a competitive edge, the festival is introducing some contests, including food eating and Greek dancing contests.
There will also be some traditional Greek games and near-constant dance performances in authentic attire by the 130 members of the church’s dance program.
“We have weekly practices, not only to learn about our culture and the dancing of our homeland, but to prepare for the big shebang at the festival,” Karagiorgis said. “We’ll have different dance types and performances pretty much every hour of the event.”
As in past years, the festival will have an indoor and outdoor stage with continuous performances, the marketplace, church tours and free cooking demonstrations at select times.
Demonstrations will be held every two hours between 2 and 8 p.m. today and Saturday and between 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday
“This is a hidden gem,” Chrysson said. “It gives a great insight into Greek culture, focusing on the simplicity of foods they ate many years ago. It’s like a step back in time.”
In years past, upwards of 10,000 people have attended the three-day festival, depending on the weather, she said.
While the festival gives a good window into the Greek culture, it also helps the community with 10 percent of proceeds being used to benefit Brenner Children’s Hospital, Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and the church’s Youth Ministries.
“Being able to give back while sharing this subculture of our community is great,” Chrysson said.
“I hope people walk away with a better understanding of who we are and what we value as a Greek community.”