By Erin Keating
The Ninth Annual Roanoke Greek Festival was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on September 19, 20, and 21. The weekend of fun, food, and dance was free to the public and offered the chance to experience real Greek culture. Last year the festival entertained more than 15,000 people, and this year even more attended the three day long extravaganza.
The festival featured the authentic Greek music of Alpha Omega Sound, which set the scene and made you feel like you were on a Mediterranean island, not land-locked in Roanoke. Some of the activities offered were dancing exhibitions, the Agora, Marketplace, where vendors sold jewelry, clothes, soaps, and decorations made in Greece; the Kid Zone where children could get their face painted and make sand art, as well as church tours of Holy Trinity which had recently been renovated using funds earned from previous Greek Festivals. This year, a portion of the proceeds will go to Center in the Square, Rescue Mission, YMCA of Roanoke Valley, and other local charities.
The food is always a highlight of the Greek Festival. Dr. Wendy Larson-Harris, an English professor at the college who is running a May Term to Greece this year, has been a volunteer at the Greek Festival for the last eight years and is often found manning the impressively long food line. “There were some people that I saw multiple times a day,” said Dr. Larson-Harris. “They came for lunch and then came back for dinner and told me that they’ve waited all year for this.” Among the most popular food items were Pastitsio, a baked pasta dish with ground meat and white sauce, and Baklava, a pastry filled with nuts and held together with honey. The food is in such high demand that there was a drive-thru so people could pick up delicious Greek meals on the go. In addition to the food, there was a tent for beer and wine tasting, as well as Greek coffee.
Dr. Larson-Harris says that her favorite part of the Greek Festival is the music which creates a fun, festive atmosphere. This year, her daughter Zoe was in one of the folk group dance exhibitions and for the last dance, all of the parents were called onstage to dance with their kids. Although Dr. Larson-Harris had to take off her apron and gloves from serving food all day, she said that the big dance was a great way to end the weekend.