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Greek festival’s 3-day run starts Friday in Peoria October 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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Baklava is but one of the pastry treats that await you at this weekend’s Taste of Greek Festival in Peoria. It’s the 20th year for the bash, held this year at St. Haralambos Church.

The koulouria (twisted cookies) are baked, the dolmades are stuffed and the lamb is roasted. You can enjoy these Greek delights and more at the Taste of Greece Food and Dance Festival. The festival, in its 20th year, runs Friday through Sunday at St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Peoria. Organizers boast it’s the only Greek festival west of the Piestewa Freeway.

“There is a large Greek population in the West Valley, and it’s only getting bigger as the population continues to grow out here,” says Father Michael Pallad, pastor of St. Haralambos.

For its 20th anniversary, the Taste of Greece Festival has been planned as its biggest ever, featuring Greek music and dance, tours of the church to explain the icons and rituals of the Orthodox Church, and food. Lots of food; There will be thousands of cookies; hundreds of loaves of tsourekia, a braided sweet bread; dozens of legs of lamb, all available for visitors to the festival.

“There is a huge assortment,” says Stella Pagos, food chairwoman for the festival. “Food is the main attraction of the festival.” And everything, from the moussaka to the baklava, is made from scratch by members of the parish.

“We’ve been cooking for about a month already. It is a huge community effort. We have 10 to 20 people working daily down at the church to get everything ready. We started with the pastries and as we get closer we’re going to do the entrees,” Pagos says.

According to Pagos, Greek festivals started about 50 years ago in the Midwest as a way to maintain Greek heritage and traditions in America. And as anyone who has seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding knows, food is central to Greek culture.

“We’re making the sort of food you would have at your yaya’s (grandmother’s) house when the family gets together after church on Sunday.”

Taste of Greece Food & Dance Festival, 5-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday. St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church, 10320 N. 84th Ave., Peoria. Admission $2. Details: 623-486-8665, www.peoriagreekfest.com.

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