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updated: 7/9/2014 9:19 AM

Get a taste of Greek culture at Elgin festival

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  • Steve Weigand of Bartlett sends flames into the air as he prepares saganaki during a previous Greek Fest at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Elgin.

      Steve Weigand of Bartlett sends flames into the air as he prepares saganaki during a previous Greek Fest at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Elgin.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Greek food is one of the biggest draws of St. Sophia's Greek Fest.

       Greek food is one of the biggest draws of St. Sophia's Greek Fest.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2010

  • Stella Frangiadakis, 8, of Arlington Heights, enjoys the kids' bungee activity at a previous Greek Festival at St. Sophia in Elgin.

      Stella Frangiadakis, 8, of Arlington Heights, enjoys the kids' bungee activity at a previous Greek Festival at St. Sophia in Elgin.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
By Lauren Rohr
lrohr@dailyherald.com

To those who attend the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church Greek Festival each year, the event appears seamless, according to parishioner Polly Gorski.

In reality, she said, church members work for months on end to put together a festival that emphasizes and embraces Greek culture.

"It really is amazing to see all the church families coming together to see the success of Greek Fest take place, and to see the community come out and enjoy the Greek culture," Gorski said.

Gorski is president of the church's Ladies Philoptochos Society, the group in charge of the sweets booth at the festival each year. Though the sweets are incredible, she said, the festival is full of other authentic, homemade Greek cuisine that attendees can enjoy.

The food that stands out to her are the loukoumades -- traditional honey-dipped doughnut holes. But all the cuisine is fantastic, she added.

"Truly, I think we have some of the best homemade prepared foods available of any Greek Fest," Gorski said. "Our food is excellent."

Other foods at the festival include meals such as gyros, Greek fries, calamari and Grecian chicken, as well as desserts such as Greek coffee, frappes and ice cream sundaes.

This year's festival will open Friday, July 11 and will end Sunday, July 13, at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, 525 Church Road, Elgin. Admission is $2 and free for anyone age 12 and younger when they are accompanied by a paying adult.

A special food-to-go lunch hour will kick off the festival from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, when people can place orders ahead of time and pick up their food at the festival's drive-through, said Dan Savas, Greek Fest co-chairman.

Savas, who has led the event with his wife, Sieglinde, for 10 years, said there is more to the festival than just food. Each night can enjoy live entertainment, including the church's Agape Dance Troupe and Greek bands.

For $15 from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, kids can participate in unlimited activities, which include a moonwalk, an obstacle course and other games.

In the past, more than 10,000 have attended the festival over a three-day period, Savas said.

Volunteer Chrysoula Zannis, who has been involved with Greek Fest for more than 20 years, said the conversations that take place at the festival are always enjoyable.

"Conversing with not only the fellow parishioners but also all of the people who come and visit is always so interesting," Zannis said. "It's interesting to see where they come from and how long they've been supporting our church in our endeavors."

With all the minor details that go into putting on the festival, Zannis said, the church community is extremely lucky to have Dan and Sieglinde Savas.

But, Savas said, it couldn't be done without the participation and hard work of many other members of the church.

"Witnessing the fellowship of the parishioners of St. Sophia and seeing so many people work so hard and maintain smiles on their faces throughout the entire weekend -- it's a pleasure to see," Savas said. "The reason our festival has done as well as it has is because of that characteristic."

Savas said he encourages anyone interested in learning more about Greek culture to stop by the festival.

For more information, visit st-sophia.com or call (847) 888-8288.

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