Haligonians get to the Greek - Metro US

Haligonians get to the Greek

There’s a week in June where about 30,000 people wish they were Greek.

The Greek Fest started out 25 years ago as a small backyard party and has become one of the city’s premier cultural events.

This year’s four-day festival at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church wrapped up yesterday.

“We are the festival that kicks off summer,” said organizer Tino Klironomos.

Hard to imagine, but during the first Greek Fest in 1985 they ran out of food.

“When we first started out we didn’t know what to cook and how much food to make. It was just to invite neighbours, friends and family to showcase Greek food and dance,” Klironomos said.

Now to feed the 30,000 people who pour through the gates, church ladies start their preparation a month in advance.

“They are a lot of ladies in their 70s and they didn’t have the energy they once did but they’re still going. Now it’s time to bring our younger generation up to bat.”

The festival has modernized over the past few years — using computers to spit out food and drink tickets, and to keep things organized.

Every year the festival grows in some way by adding menu items or activities like wine tasting and Greek language classes.

“We’re always looking for new content but it needs to be relative to the festival. We don’t want to commercialize it,” he said. “We’ve got to keep the spirit of it.”

It’s $5 to get in, but Klironomos said the admission just goes to cover some of the costs of running the event.

“There are high costs — the police, the security and the fencing. That’s why we do charge at the door and there’s live entertainment as well,” he said.

“We can’t grow anything bigger than what we are right now. We’re pretty much maxed out and we don’t want to go much bigger. It’s a fun, family environment.”

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