Everyone’s Greek for a day at fest

The Rev. Luke Uhl of the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Grand Junction conducts a blessing at the start of the Greek Festival on Saturday.

For democracy, for the Hippocratic Oath, for the Winged Victory of Samothrace — Greece, we thank you. For Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, for “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” for epic tales of Titans and Olympians, thanks, indeed, to Greece.

And for souvlaki and gyros and baklava — butter-flaky, nutty, honey-dripping baklava ...  thank you, thank you, thank you, Greece.

Which is by no means to diminish the richness and depth of an ancient, vital culture, but it must be said that many of the more than 1,600 who attended Saturday’s Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church went for the food.

“We are hospitable people,” said Connie Jouflas, a church member who collected the $1 admission at the festival entrance.

“It’s an insult if someone isn’t putting food in front of you,” added Rose Ward, who worked beside Jouflas at the entrance table.

Indeed, as anyone who is Greek — or has been to Greece, or who has Greek friends — knows, dinner often means the presence of a grandma, and the presence of a grandma means admonitions to eat just a little more because you’re looking too skinny.

“When you’re eating together it’s about fellowship and love,” said Georgann Jouflas, an organizer. “It’s really more about the community than the food.”

She added that the sense of community extends beyond the St. Nicholas family: Ten percent of the money raised Saturday will be given to local nonprofit groups, including Catholic Outreach and Partners.

So, what began in July with church members making baklava together in the church kitchen will ripple outward in fellowship.

Plus, the 10th annual Greek Festival was a “rewarding way to share our culture,” said Chris Blackburn, a church member and owner of Pantuso’s Ristorante who oversaw the massive cooking effort. That included not just the 70 baklavas, but 425 pounds of lamb, 700 pounds of gyro meat and 100 pounds of feta.

Meanwhile, while more than 4,200 gyros were devoured outside the church, the Rev. Luke Uhl answered questions about the Greek Orthodox Church teachings, history and iconography inside it.

Also, a teen Greek dance troupe from Denver performed, to great acclaim and shouts of “opa!”

Everyone, it seemed, was honorarily Greek for the day and everyone, it seemed, could not get enough of the baklava.


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