This is my favorite time of summer. Long days are still hanging on, but we can see autumn off in the distance. It’s the beginning of the last passionate fling of summer. In other words, it’s time to live it up.
And one of the best places to do that is at the Rochester Greek Festival, which starts tomorrow.
Now in its 51st year, this annual fundraiser for the Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church is part fair, part cultural experience, part entertainment, part auction and just really, really fun.
And you know why I’m writing about it: the food.
Their all-Greek, all-the-time food “court” gives you so many options, you have no choice but to come back multiple days to try everything. There are even a few new dishes this year that will accompany the old standbys such as gyros, souvlaki and spanakopita.
First, an old dish has returned by popular demand: This year, they’ll have dolmades, which are vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, a staple in Greek cuisine. They’re also featuring keftedes Greek sliders, which are made with Greek meatballs, as well as a “Fat Boy Gyro,” which is a gyro with everything. And they mean everything.
The lively volunteers always add to the festive atmosphere, and I honestly cannot wait to hear their commentary on the Fat Boy gyro. You should hear them when I order a gyro for my husband without tomatoes and tzatziki. It offends them. I’m embarrassed (for my husband).
They say that being Greek for a day just means living life to the fullest, and I guess it’s just not possible without tomatoes and tzatziki. (For the record, I side with the Greeks on this one. Sorry, honey.)
Live music from folk band Levendes will add to the festivities, as well as the Minnesota Greek Dancers, a kids’ carnival with games and inflatables, a marketplace where you can purchase books and folk art and guided tours of the church. Don’t forget the silent auction, where hundreds of items and packages will be up for bid, and most importantly, the room full of Greek desserts such as baklava and diples.
Going to the Greek Festival feels like you’re hanging out with your neighbors at a block party — because you are. At the same time, it feels like you’re visiting another culture — because you are. It’s the best of both worlds, right here in our backyard.
Greek Fest begins tomorrow (Friday) at 5 p.m., then begins again on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. through the evening. The church and grounds are located at 720 W. Center St., right near downtown Rochester. Raise a glass and “opa!” for me!
Be a VIP (Very Irish Person)
If you’re Greek this weekend, why not be Irish next weekend?
I’ll have more on this next week, but Irish Fest is celebrating its fourth year with a venue change — this year, the Irish can be found on the History Center of Olmsted County grounds.
If you’re planning ahead, get your hands on a ticket to the Irish Whiskey Tasting on Friday night, Aug. 29. Tickets are for those 21 and older, of course, and the tasting alone is $35 — or go all in and get an all-weekend access pass to the Very Irish Person (VIP) tent for $75. The tent, sponsored by local chef and caterer Johnny Mangouras (“Johnny Mango”), will offer “shade and refreshments all weekend,” according to event materials.
Go to irishfestmn.org or the Irish Fest Facebook page for more information or to get your tickets.