ST. CLAIR SHORES — Are you Greek?
It doesn’t matter at the annual GreekFest at Assumption Orthodox Church and Cultural Center, where everyone’s Greek for a day.
The festival brings together Greek food, music, entertainment and shopping, plus much more for families, children and the community.
This year’s GreekFest is set for Aug. 15-18 and is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 15-17 and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 18. The Grand Opening festivities will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15 and the Grand Raffle drawing is at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 18. Prizes for that include a two-year pre-paid lease on a Honda Accord LX from Jim Riehl Friendly Auto Group and two airline tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. from Cosmopolitan Travel, along with cash prizes. Raffle tickets are $5.
Tom Thomas, one of three co-chairs of GreekFest 2013, said the event seems to be getting better every year.
“It’s a very enjoyable weekend, we have wonderful food — it’s great food,” he said. “Everybody gets together, the whole Assumption family and most of us participating in volunteering … we really enjoy doing it, as well.”
This year, opening day is also International Day. Along with free admission from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be entertainment representing nationalities around the world, in addition to Greece.
“On that day, there will be (an) Irish dance group will be performing and then other ethnic organizations will be entertaining and welcoming audience participation at that time,” said Church Administrator Joan De Ronne.
She said Fr. Michael Varlamos decided this year that since thousands turn out to enjoy the Greek culture every year at GreekFest, he wanted other ethnic organizations to have a chance to share their culture, as well.
Aug. 16 is Family Day, when there is no admission charge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and friends and family are welcome to come and enjoy various performances from musical groups and “dance contests for all ages.”
“It’s a day especially set aside for grandparents, aunts and uncles — anyone who can attend,” De Ronne said.
Every evening of the festival, she said, “there’s entertainment scheduled throughout the evening: music and dancing and audience participation and all of the marketplace.”
More than 20 vendors with wares, from bas relief in copper and brass to Greek imports, jewelry, antiques and collectibles, will participate in the marketplace this year.
One of those will be a group from Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, the recipient of some of the funds raised from this year’s event.
“They will be here with a booth of all … handmade items, as well as their famous tire mats,” De Ronne said. “Their ambassadors will be singing on Saturday. They’ll be providing inspirational singing in the Motown style.”
The Cass Community Ambassadors perform around the country, De Ronne said, but at one time were homeless or jobless and found help with the organization.
Greek dancers from Assumption will also perform and Dr. Lena Hatzichronoglou will host a cultural talk and exhibit on the history of the Olympics.
There will be plenty for children to do, with rides, activities, magic shows and even a visit from the Detroit Tigers mascot, PAWS, over the course of the weekend.
This year, near the pony rides, a petting zoo and inflatable bouncers, Thomas said they’re going to move some tables outside, “so the adults can watch the kids and eat out there at the same time.”
“Last year, we were so packed on Saturday (that) we’ve expanded our seating capacity out there,” he said.
The food options abound, Thomas said, from chicken kabobs to souvlaki (pork kabobs), spinach pies, grape leaves, pastries and pastitsio (Greek lasagna).
There’s even a “GreekFest Express” drive-thru for orders called in ahead of time.
De Ronne said work began early getting everything ready for the festivities, with more than 30 women from the church getting together to make hundreds of trays of spinach pie and the rest of the homemade food.
“We all enjoy it so much,” Thomas said. “The whole church is fired up about it.”
Admission to GreekFest is $2 and children 12 years and younger are free. Parking is available in the church parking lot, as well as in the parking lot of St. Joan of Arc Church on Overlake. Fishbones will provide a free shuttle bus for anyone parking at St. Joan or in the neighborhoods near Assumption. Parking is also available next to Assumption in the Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Works parking lot.
De Ronne said along with the fun, there’s a larger meaning for the festival.
“The money goes toward our programs and, not only here but also to the Nursery School and Toddler Center, and a portion will go to Cass (Community Services), of course,” she said. “This is our one opportunity to offer hospitality, as well as raising the funds to do our outreach programs.”
GreekFest 2013 is at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 21800 Marter Road. For more information, visit assumptionfestival.com. Call (586) 596-6326 to order take out food.
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