92nd annual Greek Festival will take place Aug. 11
BRIDGEPORT — The local Greek community is ready to shout “Opa!” in celebration of its culture, traditions and faith as the 92nd annual Greek Festival gets underway on Saturday, Aug. 11.
The annual festival starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Prairie Winds Community Center in Bridgeport and is sponsored by the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Bayard.
Nicole Dean, who’s helping coordinate the event, said this year’s schedule has changed a bit.
“Instead of a full weekend, we’re just having the Saturday night festival on Aug. 11,” she said. “The traditional Sunday lamb dinner has been rescheduled to Feb. 24, 2019.”
Greek festivals have been celebrated in Greek Orthodox parishes around the world for years. The festivals are scheduled near the name day of the church. For the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox parish, the name day on the church calendar is Aug. 15.
Like previous celebrations, Saturday is always a busy night as a wide variety of food booths is open from 4:30 to 8 p.m. The tastes and smells of traditional Greek cuisine come alive in Greek sausage, gyros, calamari, pork and lamb kabobs, Greek salads, seafood, the always popular baklava sundaes and Greek sweets prepared by members of the parish.
Food tickets are available at the door and there is no admission charge.
Later in the evening, the Athenian Dancers will perform Greek folk dances in traditional costume. Younger dancers range in age from 3 to 12. Some of the older parish members take part as well.
“The kids have been practicing throughout the summer for this,” said dance instructor Allison Liras. “They’re really enjoying the dancing. They’re like a sports team that enjoys being around each other. That makes me happy.”
The Athenian Dancers first organized in 1993. Liras said it’s important to carry on traditions and learn the unique Greek culture that’s contributed so much to Western civilization.
An older dance group of special guests, the Cheyenne Greek Dancers from Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church will also perform.
After the dancers perform, the floor is open for anyone who would like to join in the fun of traditional Greek dancing.
The Assumption Church was founded in Bayard in 1926, built by Greek immigrants who came to help build and work in the sugar factory. Among them was Peter Lapaseotes, whose descendants, grandchildren, in-laws, cousins and extended family are still active in the church community.
The festival also started in 1926, more as a potluck meal for church members. Non-Greeks were also invited and it grew from there. Today, about 1,000 people attend the annual Greek Festival.
“We usually have a big crowd because people love the food and they keep coming back every year,” Dean said. “We love meeting new people and it’s something we look forward to every year.”