Greek Festival offers a cultural experience

The Saint John Greek Orthodox Church will be celebrating its Annual Greek Festival this upcoming weekend on the church grounds, a tradition dating back to the early ’60s, said Dee Nicolau, St. John’s spokeswoman.

Nicolau said she expects that over 12,000 people will attend the three-day weekend festival.

“I think anyone who goes (to the festival) would have a wonderful time; we’ll have wonderful food and entertainment,” said Nicolau.

The church expects more people to attend this year due to the increase in the Orthodox faith and the overwhelming exposure of the Greek culture to the greater community through the film My Big, Fat Greek Wedding.

Saint John’s own parishioners will prepare some of the traditional dishes that will be served at this year’s event.

“The ladies (the church’s parishioners) get together and bake almost all of the sweets,” Nicolau said.

USF professor of Greek language and literature, Dr. Ippokratis Kantzios, is a Greek Orthodox who is volunteering at the Saint John’s kitchen for the second year in a row. Kantzios, a Macedonian native who now calls Tampa home, said, “Here, everybody puts on an apron.”

The festival not only offers a great variety of traditional dishes but great entertainment, as well.

“We’re also going to have Greek dancers who are going to perform in authentic Greek costumes,” Nicolau added. “The dances are not only done at joyous occasions, but they also tell a story.”

The dances from the north of Greece are different from the dances in the south. Each individual place has its own uniqueness, Kantzios said.

Apart from the traditional dances they will also have a live Greek band that will go around playing throughout the community center.

“It makes you feel like you are really part of the festivities,” Nicolau said.

There will also be all kinds of Greek crafts, from art beads, diverse Greek items such as purses, jewelry and woodcrafts to Greek clothing from various local artists that will be put in the exhibit.

“This festival brings the parish together for one common goal. It introduces the larger community into the Greek community,” Kantzios said. “People from all over Tampa come (to the festival) and share the music and enjoy the food and by doing so, becoming one greater community.”

Contact Vanessa Garnicaat