Opa! Fest dishes out food, folk dancing, faith and fun

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 22, 2011

 Anna Diamantaras assembles pastitsio June 14 in the kitchens of St. Nicholas Greek
Orthodox Church in preparation for Opa! Fest.

Anna Diamantaras assembles pastitsio June 14 in the kitchens of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in preparation for Opa! Fest.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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Opa! Fest will serve up all things Greek on the grounds of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church June 24-26.

The church was first established south of Eight Mile in Detroit, and it’s celebrating its 75th year. Parishioners have rolled up their sleeves to put on the festival in Troy for the past 18 years.

“We’re the largest ongoing festival in metro Detroit,” said Patti Chalker, office administrator for the church.

And once again, Julia Patrou, in her “mid-90s,” supervised the preparation of the galaktoboureko, a custard and phyllo dough confection, although she said she handed off preparation of the custard to other volunteers because “you must stand for a half-hour straight to prepare it.” Kyria (a title denoting respect) Anna Diamantaras single-handedly prepared 200 pounds of ground beef and kettles of béchamel sauce for 45 pans of pastitsio (Greek lasagna), in addition to supervising the preparation of between 3,000 and 4,000 stuffed grape leaves.

“All the food is prepared by us,” Chalker said. The pastry booth, which serves up sweet (think baklava) and savory (think spinach pie) pastries, sells out of everything each year, Chalker added. The honey puffs, or loukoumathes, are also a big hit each year, she said.

“The food is spectacular,” the Rev. Stratton Dorozenski said. “It’s a wonderful, relaxing afternoon or evening, and really a family day.”

Enigma, a local band that performs Greek music, Enigma, will return to the festival stage this year.

New this year, Yia-Yia’s (grandma’s) Attic will feature gently used items for sale, and chef Deno Challon will lead a culinary competition onsite in which nine contestants will be given a basket filled with Greek kitchen staples and asked to create authentic Greek fare, ala “Iron Chef.”

Folk music and dancing, the Plaka Marketplace with authentic Greek merchandise, wine tastings, children’s games and food, tours of the church and iconography, and a raffle drawing with a grand prize of $2,000 will be on tap during the three-day festival.

Opa! Fest will be held on the grounds of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 760 W. Wattles, between Crooks and Livernois, 4-11 p.m. June 24, noon-11 p.m. June 25 and noon-8 p.m. June 26. General admission is $2, and children younger than 12 attend for free. There is free admission with three cans of food to benefit Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, and gyros will be sold for half price 2-4 p.m. June 25.

Free parking and shuttle service to and from the festival will be available from Walsh College, 3838 Livernois, south of Wattles.

 

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