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Family Time: Don’t let Greek festival be foreign to you

August 23, 2018 GMT

Dance, eat, play at Rochester’s Greek Fest. Always held the last weekend in August, this year marks the 56th annual event.

“The Greek Fest was started by Greek immigrants in 1963 as a way of promoting American culture and celebrating and sharing Greek culture,” said Andy Franqueira, event organizer.

The three-day event offers families the opportunity to eat a variety of Greek food (tyropita, manestra, gyros), watch and learn a variety of Greek dances performed by the Greek Dancers of Minnesota (lessons offered Saturday and Sunday), and play Greek games.

“On Saturday, kids can learn and play three ancient board games: Petteia, Go (Pente) and Mancala,” said Michael Carr, event organizer. “They’ll make construction paper mosaics based on ancient Greek mosaics, make beeswax candles, and learn to write and pronounce the letters of the Greek alphabet.”

Hosted by Sts. Kosmas and Damianos Greek Orthodox Church and held in the parking lot behind the church building, Greek Fest participants are invited to head inside the church.

“The church building and the way church is done are reflective of Greek culture, but the congregation is actually made up of people from around the world: Russians, Arabs, Egyptians, and more,” said Franqueira, who was born in England. “You can step inside and just have a look, take a tour of the church, or Father Mark will be giving a scheduled series of talks.”

Greek Fest organizers hope to raise $30,000 to $35,000 at this year’s fest. Each year, the money raised goes to support a variety of church ministries including the Philoxenia House Ministry’s two houses (the white one and the red one to the sides of the church), which offer free temporary housing to individuals and families visiting the Mayo Clinic.

“There’s a concept in Greek culture that promotes generosity and kindness to strangers. The concept is called Philoxenia. That’s the ethos of the church, the festival, and the Philoxenia House Ministry,” said Franqueira. “Right now we have two houses, soon we’ll have four. The houses are open to anyone — any faith or no faith at all. Every year the requests go up. The need is real.”