Event wraps up over weekend

Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Nopie Tzotzis, front, performs with Montreal dance group La Troupe Folklorique Grecque Syrtaki during the closing day of Ottawa’s Greekfest yesterday.

“We had visitors from all over North America and as far as Athens, Greece. ... And it’s been fantastic.”

Ottawa Greekfest may be a relative baby of the capital, but more than 85,000 people attended the event over the last 10 days.

“We had visitors from all over North America and as far as Athens, Greece,” said festival spokeswoman Andrea Allan, who attributed the festival’s success partly to good weather. “And it’s been fantastic. We’ve had such positive feedback.”

The festival wrapped up outside the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church on Prince of Wales Drive with performances by cultural dance groups, including Ottawa’s Odyssey Dance Troupe and Montreal’s La Troupe Folklorique Grecque Syrtaki.

The group, which has performed at Ottawa Greekfest for the past 15 years, demonstrated dances from the Aegean Islands, Crete and a suite of dances from Pontos.

While these dances are common at weddings, they may not be ones that spectators from outside the Greek community often see. The festival is a chance to share them, said La Troupe Folklorique Grecque Syrtaki dance co-ordinator Peter Bournakis.

A unique thing about the troupe is that its members are made up of second- and third-generation Greeks from Montreal. For Bournakis, whose grandparents came to Canada from Greece, dance is a way for him to preserve his culture.

“Some people may believe the only way to understand the culture is to go to the area,” he said. “But there is a relationship between culture and dance.”

The food at Greekfest is always a draw, and this year was no exception, Allen said. The festival cooked 300 lambs on spits this year, and served hundreds of thousands of souvlaki.

But the festival was about more than performances and food, Allen said.

“It’s about community,” she said. “Every single person that runs this festival is a volunteer. This festival has evolved from a backyard barbecue where they cooked one lamb on a spit.”