Stuff your mouth

Dayton Greek Festival’s 59th year

Dean Margioras and friends dancing at the festival; photo: Linda Bouris

By Terri Gordon

By the second week of July, volunteers at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church have begun to prepare the food for the Dayton Greek Festival. It takes them about two months. They prepare pastitsio (a Greek version of lasagna), moussaka (eggplant casserole), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), lamb shank dinners, and gyro sandwiches. The make an estimated 50 pans of baklava, 20,000 gyros, 12,00 Greek salads, and 7,000 lamb shank dinners. They use 500 pounds of butter, and 450 pounds of phyllo dough. All of the food is authentic, the recipes coming from the kitchens of parishioners themselves.

There will be craft and imported beers, and a selection of wines to wash it all down with. Tsoureki bread will be baked fresh throughout the weekend, and honey puffs (loukoumades) and pastries galore will be available.

This year—the festival’s 59th—new booths will serve Ouzo Slushies and the Greek specialty, saganaki—cheese that is flamed and fried.

Festival organizers plan for as many as 20,000 people. Not bad for an event that started, according to parish member and festival volunteer Deb Pulos, as a church picnic! The picnic expanded when church members started bringing their friends, and well, now it’s a city-wide celebration that draws out-of-towners from as far away as Indianapolis and Cleveland.

The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church has a membership of about 500. It is located at 500 Belmonte Park North—the site of the former Keys Mansion. It held its first service in 1951—roughly 70 years from the time the first Greeks emigrated from their homeland, fleeing the ravages of war in the late 1880s. As they adjusted to their new home, learned the new language, found jobs, and opened businesses, their Orthodox faith kept them grounded and gave them strength.

In 1921, 65 families joined together and established a parish. At first, they held services in homes or rented spaces. They finally were able to purchase a vacant church that sat where Sinclair Community College is now. But they desired an authentic Byzantine-styled church. That desire was fulfilled with the purchase of the Keys Mansion property. Today the parish consists of about 450 families.

Presiding over all matters spiritual is Father Joseph Gingric; he’s new this year too. He’ll be greeting folks, giving tours of the church, and a presentation on the Eastern Orthodox faith.

“It’s exciting,” Father Joseph says. “The festival has stood the test of time. It’s like a homecoming, I think, for a lot of people. I know it’s really loved by the Dayton community. I’ve heard that from people I’ve met both in the church and outside the church. It’s a way for us to invite people into our ‘home,’ a way for us to show who we are, and get to know you a little better.”

While food is the big draw, there are other activities, too. It wouldn’t be a festival without music and dancing, so the “Greek Tycoons,” and dancers in traditional costumes will be on hand to provide entertainment all weekend. Festival goers are invited to watch, but are also encouraged to get up and join in!

The Grecian Boutique carries jewelry and other imported items, including popular coin skirts. Cooking demonstrations will go on all weekend, and the Ohio State University game against Oklahoma will be shown on Saturday night.

“We will be showing the OSU versus Oklahoma game Saturday night on a large outdoor screen TV,” Pulos says. “We will have all of the favorite Greek food and beverages available at arms reach to enjoy during the game.”

The Greek Festival is held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Parking is available on surrounding streets, and also in the Grandview employee parking lot on Shaw Avenue. A free shuttle will ferry people back and forth.

The festival begins on Friday, September 8, at 11:00 a.m. and is free until 5:00 p.m. Then the fee is $2.00 per person and is good for the entire weekend. The festival continues on Saturday, the 9th, running from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and on Sunday, the 10th, from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Children under 12, and active military and veterans are free

On Friday only, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., the festival offers carryout lunches for those stuck in offices, or who just want a change. An order form and instructions are available for download at www.daytongreekfestival.com, or on the Dayton Greeek Festival Facebook page. Once ordered, all that is left is picking it up. Designated parking spots make it even easier; just pull in and folks will run orders out.

The Dayton Greek Festival takes place Sept. 8-10 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 500 Belmonte Park North in Dayton. Admissions is $2.00 per person. For more festival details or carryout lunches, please visit www.DaytonGreekFestival.com, the Dayton Greek Festival Facebook page, or call the church office at (937) 224-0601. #OPADAYTON

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Terri Gordon
Freelance writer Terri Gordon writes across a range of topics, including nature, health, and homes and gardens. She holds a masters in English and occasionally teaches college composition and literature. Her blog, WordWorks (http://tsgordon.blogspot.com) is a "bulletin board" of some of her favorite things.

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