Tempe gets a taste of Greece

Tempe Beach Park transformed into a big fat Greek party this weekend.

The three-day “A Taste of Greece” festival offered Tempe and Valley residents a little slice of Greek culture.

As the sunshine beat down on the lake and children eagerly waited their turn on the variety of rides, the scent of freshly made gyros filled the air, accompanied by the sounds of traditional folk dancing, music and excitement.

The smells of Greek food went beyond cooking gyros, as guests gathered around a cloud of smoke emitting from a whole lamb, slowly roasting and rotating on a rotisserie.

“It’s a great way to get outdoors,” said 50-year-old Tempe resident Kathleen Ross.

While some came for the benefit of getting some Vitamin D, the main attraction for many was the opportunity to indulge in popular cuisine of the isles.

“I came here for the food,” said Tempe resident Susan Arnold.

The festival was a marketplace of authentic Greek food, ranging from a slow-cooked lamb, mezzethakia, loukaniko and Arnold’s favorite, souvlaki.

She couldn’t spell her favorite dish, but the marinated and grilled pork loin shish kebobs were a crowd favorite, and the cook enthusiastically yelled “Opa!” as he flipped it on the grill.

This isn’t the first time Arnold had a taste of Greece; she has craved it since her college years, when she spent time abroad in Athens and Crete.

Arnold’s friend Malinda Kester was a fan of the food too, but had more of a sweet tooth.

“If we’re talking desserts, they’re all my favorite,” she said.

The dozens of pastry offerings ranged from koulourakia, a crisp and semi-sweet cookie, to the mandatory dessert of the Greeks, baklava.

“It’s all good,” she said.

Kester said she came for the music, too.

The festival featured a number of artists performing traditional Greek music, and held numerous dance exhibitions.

“The dancers this afternoon were interesting to watch,” said Phoenix resident Lisa Yvette. “It felt like I was watching them on a street in Greece. Their culture is great.”

Visitors also found Greek-inspired art and jewelry in the marketplace that were nothing short of authentic.

Local jewelry business Koralia, owned by Coralia Grivas, sold handcrafted copper-wire belts and accessories to the crowd.

“Copper at the time of ancient Greeks was very precious,” said, Plato Dracatos, Grivas’ husband.

Grivas and Dracatos come from Greece and take part in the Greek festival every year, and also travel the world, visiting cities such as San Francisco and Mexico City.

Copper jewelry making is another Greek tradition that continues to be upheld at the festival, traditions that Dracatos said are important to preserve.

“[Greece] was the first democracy in the world,” he said. “These festivals do a good job in keeping that culture.”

Reach the reporter at ktenagli@asu.edu

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