Opa! Greeks celebrate culture with food, dance, music

Twelve hours after he arrived, Bill Makris was still standing, watching over succulent rotisserie pig and lamb as festivalgoers carried plates of Greek delicacies.
“It’s an event where you’re happy to see people enjoy the food,” he said Friday night at the Niagara Greek Festival, where the 18- kilogram animals took four hours to roast. “People come for the souvlaki and gyros.”
Hundreds of people gathered on the grounds of the Greek Community Centre in St. Catharines Friday night for the beginning of the three-day Greek extravaganza.
Makris, who came to Canada from Greece at age 17 and is now a grandfather, said the event brings together Greeks and non-Greeks from across the peninsula. It’s an opportunity to enjoy food, people and friendships.
“We’re really proud of Canada and proud of our heritage, too,” he said. “And we’re really thankful Canada allows every nationality to show their background and culture.”
The event, in its fourth year, is expected to draw more than 8,000 people to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Greece.
Festival co-chair Harry Korosis said the last three years have created weather challenges, but Friday’s nice conditions broke attendance records. The appeal of the event is no surprise to him.
“Number one, the food is great,” he said. “Greeks are very hospitable and great hosts. We like to share our culture with those who aren’t Greek.”
There are about 200 families in the Greek Community of Niagara, making up about 1,200 to 1,600 people in the peninsula.
The group launched the festival in 2006, a year after moving into former Maplewood School on Niagara Street at Linwell Road. Korosis said the grounds gave them the opportunity to host the large-scale event, something they couldn’t do in a previous smaller space.
The festival showcases Greek bands, dancers and other entertainment, along with traditional foods and pastries like moussaka, spanakopita and baklava.
Within the marketplace tents, Gina Droganes was describing to visitors the 40th anniversary historical album project.
The book, available in November or December, will chronicle the history of Hellenism in Niagara. Droganes, project co-ordinator, said researchers conducted interviews with members of the Greek community and plowed through various resources at the public library and Brock University.
The first documentation of Greeks in the area is from a 1911 census of St. Catharines, though Droganes said they probably arrived earlier.
“These people who came in the early days were the trailblazers,” she said, explaining they started a Greek school and kept the heritage alive for future generations.
source: «The standard»


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