This weekend brings a glimpse into a culture often dismissed as folklore and graphic material for animated movies. Its people come from a part of the world known for beautiful women and strong men. And its founding members included the likes of Aristotle and Plato.
A frequent visitor of this seemingly far-fetched world, Fort Collins resident Dimitria Hurst describes it as an easy-going environment where people are always “strolling along, being together, always out at sidewalk cafes . just a neat atmosphere.”
Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and again at 11 a.m. Saturday, Old Town will transform into the land of Greece.
“For two days, we’ll bring to Northern Colorado the tradition of joy and enthusiasm for life that is the spirit of Greece,” said Spiro Palmer, co-chairman of the festival and owner of Palmer Flowers and Design Center in a recent press release.
For Hurst and her fellow parishoners at the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Loveland, this weekend’s Greek festival is more than just an excuse to eat their favorite foods and walk around Old Town. As the head of marketing for the church, Hurst has organized the second annual event around what she calls her most favorite aspect of her culture.
Having been born to Greek immigrants, Hurst was raised to appreciate her home traditions and attitudes and has a special place in her heart for its history.
“Greek people in general, more so even in Greece, have such a wonderful appreciation of life, they celebrate and enjoy living,” she said. “There’s just a happiness and appreciation – that’s what we’re trying to bring this weekend, that’s really for me the best part of this thing.”
Professional dance troupes from Fort Collins, Denver and Wyoming will be performing traditional Greek dances, Boulder-based band Jesse Manno and Friends will play Mediterranean tunes and a live DJ will be spinning between acts.
As if that isn’t enough to entice you into taking a walk north of Mulberry, there’s always the grub. Whether you say “guy-ro” or “year-o,” the Greek sandwiches are worth a try. Also on the menu, according to a press release, are lamb sandwiches, meatball sandwiches, spanakopita, or spinach pie; tiropita, or cheese pie; Greek-style fries; dolmathes, rice-stuffed grape leaves; Greek salad and a variety of traditional sweets, including baklava and loukoumades, a type of honey-dipped donut. Most of which will be cooked on-site at booths and locals’ stands.
“There’s quite a bit of awareness in a town like Fort Collins, people are pretty educated and sophisticated,” Hurst said.
A cultural booth with informational movies, maps and pseudo-experts will provide a more educational look into Greece, while merchandise and trinkets will be sold to take a piece of the festival home. While admission is free, proceeds from a New Belgium-sponsored raffle will be donated to Hope Lives and the Women’s Resource Center of Fort Collins, which provides health care assistance to women and families.
Aside from the culture, food and music, Hurst says the Greek Festival is a chance for students and residents to experience something new and see the best sides of her heritage.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “There are Greek festivals in every major city- a lot of people are used to going to an annual Greek festival, so it’s something different for people to experience in Northern Colorado.”