Food, Culture, It's Greek
A festival featuring Greek food and culture is scheduled for this weekend.
"We are hoping for good weather and a big turnout," said Lee Regas, chair of the festival. "It's an opportunity to showcase our culture and orthodox faith."
The Twelve Holy Apostles parish will host the annual Taste of Greece festival this Saturday, July 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, July 12, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Marshall School, 1215 Rice Lake Road.
Along with Greek food including lamb, souvlaki, Athenian chicken, gyros, spanakopita, pastichio, dolmades and Greek pastries, there will also be dancing and music. (See sidebar for definitions of Greek food.)
The Greek Dancers of Minnesota, a professional group from Minneapolis, as well as dancers from Twelve Holy Apostles will be performing traditional dances from Greece.
"The dancers will be performing dances from all different parts of Greece and the music that will be played is something that one would hear if they ever get travel to Greece," said Regas.
The Taste of Greece Festival started back in 1989 with one man's plan and a welcoming community.
The late George Patronas, and his then-wife Patricia Patronas-Swor were instrumental in bringing this Greek celebration to Duluth.
"He was a visionary with everything he did in his life and he decided we could pull it off," Patronas-Swor said. "The whole congregation and all of his friends were behind him."
Patronas found inspiration to bring a Greek cultural festival to Duluth when he experienced his culture being celebrated in other cities around the United States.
"We were in Phoenix while their Greek Orthodox church was having a weeklong festival and we also were in Denver for their weeklong Greek festival," said Patronas-Swor. "George wanted to have one in Duluth, but the congregation here is small, so I was hesitant."
The ideal solution in Duluth was to have a weekend-long festival to showcase Greek food, dancing, music and other cultural aspects like clothing, jewelry and other handmade goods.
The 1990 death of George Patronas, the principle founder of the festival, put Taste of Greece on hold. It wasn't until a few years later that Lee Regas stepped up to bring back the festival. The newly revamped festival was held in the slanted parking lot at the Twelve Holy Apostles Greek Church.
Throughout the years, the festival has grown. So much that it very quickly outgrew the meager parking lot of the church. The festival has been held at Marshall School for the past few years.
"The first year the festival was held at the church we had around 200 people show up. Now we are expecting around 3,000," said Regas.
This celebration of Orthodox Christian faith and the vibrant Greek culture is free and open to the public to enjoy.
"My dad just wanted to bring Greek food and culture to Duluth," said Nick Patronas, son of George Patronas, the principle founder of Taste of Greece. "I am very proud of my Greek heritage and I hope this festival keeps getting bigger in the years to come."
What: Taste of Greece
Where: Marshall School, 1215 Rice Lake Road
When: Saturday, July 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, July 12, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Why: As a fundraiser and as a celebration of Greek culture
Cost: Various charges for food, mingling and watching dancers is free
Traditional Greek Food
souvlaki - Greek shish kabob
Athenian chicken - chicken with spices and olive oil
gyros - lamb and beef, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce on pita bread
spanakopita - a pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese
pastichio - Greek and Mediterranean baked pasta dish
dolmades - meat and spiced rice wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves