On Tuesday, crews raised tents for this weekend’s Taste of Greece festival hosted by St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in the East Calhoun
The event features Greek food, music and dancing, and sheds light on a Greek culture with which many students at the University might not be accustomed.
“Greek culture is a very social one,” festival planner Paulette Hastings said. “It is a time to dance, have fellowship with your friends, have something nice to drink. It is mostly just a good time.”
Dr. Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Minnesota, will perform at the event in the Greek Dancers of Minnesota, a dance troupe she founded in 1996.
In Greece, an entire village — regardless of age and ability — would participate in dances, Panoskaltsis-Motari said. This inclusivity extends to the Greek Dancers of Minnesota, which is free for anybody to join and frequently incorporates audience participation into their dances.
“When you dance, you are preserving part of history,” Panoskaltsis-Mortari said. Many Greek dances have existed for millennia, passed from generation to generation, she said. In addition, she and her Greek dancers wear authentic costumes close to 150 years old, with some jewelry pieces dating back even farther.
“Somebody’s great-grandmother probably did the handwork on them,” dancer Vicki Withers said, who joined Greek Dancers of Minnesota at its beginning.
This authenticity marks other areas of the festival as well. This year, Taste of Greece has expanded to include a courtyard cafe overlooking Lake Calhoun, where festivalgoers will be able to purchase flights of Greek wine paired with octopus, meatballs and other dishes.
As another new addition to the festival, signs with Greek phrases will hang around the area. Not only will one be able to order ouzo, an anise-flavored spirit served before a meal, or metaxa, Greek brandy mixed with wine, he or she will be able to do so in Greek.
Demonstrations will show how to make authentic pastries, including baklava, a sweet, layered pastry, and spanakopita, a savory pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese.
Since money is frequently tight with students, Hastings notes that one can get food and drink tickets for the festival by bringing in food for Joyce Food Shelf located in Uptown or participating in the toga run around Lake Calhoun, which raises money for local nonprofit Chloe’s Fight Rare Disease Foundation.
“You truly get a taste of Greece, not just from the food but also looking at the culture, at the dances, listening to the music,” Panoskaltsis-Mortari said. “You can — at least for one day when you are there — feel like you are in Greece.”