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Culture

Greek Festivals Are Back After a Year of COVID-19

May 20, 2021
By Matina Demelis

More than one year after the pandemic began, Greek communities are starting over, organizing their annual festivals after most of them were cancelled or postponed.

Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral celebrated its 35th annual Greek Festival last week in Greenville, SC. The celebration of Greek culture featured a drive-thru and on-site dining for visitors to taste some classic Greek dishes like spanakopita, dolmades, gyros, and baklava.

The church has been holding the festival since 1987 and has usually hosted a variety of Greek cultural performances and activities throughout its three days. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a drive-thru-only version of the festival was all they could present in 2020.

This year, an on-site dining area was included where visitors could order food and beverages and there were also performers featured in traditional Greek dances. Harry Zolides, president of the parish, says they hope to return to normal operations next year.

This was the 28th year for the Greek Festival at St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church in Wilmington, DE that took place May 14-16. The community postponed the in-person May festival in 2020, opting instead for a drive-thru only event in October. Nevertheless, the turnout was tremendous, with workers serving nearly five thousand cars in two-and-a-half days. Seeing that success, and with some pandemic restrictions remaining in place regarding outdoor events and mass gatherings, organizers opted for another drive-thru event again this year.

“We had a go or no-go window that we needed to be really happy with, and we were just not very satisfied with that window of time,” Basile Katsikis, the well-known comedian who handles promotion for the annual Greek Festival, said on WECT News6. “We just said ‘You know what, we’re going to do the drive-thru again.’ We had such great success in October when we did the last drive-thru, we figured we’d do it again and keep it safe, just in case.”

Having been part of the festival since its inception, Katsikis has seen the community continue to support the event while learning about the heritage of St. Nicholas church and its members. He looks forward to the day when the in-person festival can return, with the music, dancing, and Greek traditions so many have come to enjoy.

The Greek Festival of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which normally takes place every year in downtown Salt Lake City, is slated to return this summer after skipping the 2020 activities.

The festivities are claimed to be the largest cultural festival in Utah, drawing 100,000 attendees of Greek and non-Greek descent each year. The 2021 comeback festival is scheduled for September 10 through 12.

“We are excited to celebrate our culture and heritage with Utah and the surrounding states, and look forward to sharing our Greek hospitality with everyone,” Parish Council President George Karahalios said in a press release from the church.

The Greek Festival of St. Demetrios church in Saginaw, MI will host a two-day drive-thru June 18-19. The Greek Fest Drive Thru will offer a safe alternative with its most popular menu items, including gyros, Greek fries, and baklava. Guests may pay with cash or credit. The Greek Festival began in 1979 as a way of sharing the faith and culture of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church with the parish’s neighbors. It is planning for a full return in 2022.

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