By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: September 2010
Peggy Belbas and Constantine “Deno” Michalopulos share a half century of memories of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s annual festivals. Deno still has his first ticket.
Tulsa’s oldest ethnic celebration, and one of the city’s biggest food events, marks 50 years of Greek culture, tradition and outstanding food. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at 1206 S. Guthrie presents its 50th annual festival September 16-18, 2010.
This year’s theme, Greek Holiday, pays tribute to the first celebration on December 10, 1961. Constantine “Deno” Michalopulos remembers it well. Little did he realize that 50 years later, he would still have his ticket.
Without a building to call their own, Deno recalls, parishioners prepared food in their homes and carried it to the Tulsa Hotel in downtown Tulsa. Approximately 250 people attended this traditional Greek holiday dinner and dance. The following year, festivities moved into the newly dedicated Community Building at its present location.
During this half century, the festival has moved from winter to spring to late summer, and from one day to four days to three days in duration. But two things have remained constant. According to this year’s chairman, Demetrius Bereolos, all of the festivals have featured shish kabobs and baklava.
“All this food is made with love,” says Demetrius. Many of the recipes came from Greece and have been handed down for decades. A small army of volunteers produce the wonderful blends of meats, cheeses, and aromatic herbs and spices that draw newcomers every year and welcome back regulars. Even if people can’t pronounce the often-difficult names, they know what they want.
The golden anniversary a la carte menu features nine home-cooked Greek foods. They include chargrilled shish kabob, gyros sandwiches, Greek salad with feta cheese and olives, calamari, and a Greek appetizer plate with cheese pie, feta cheese, olives, spinach pie and Greek meatballs. A new item is the Greek lamb bowl that consists of slices of baked lamb on a bed of rice and green beans.
The irresistible Greek desserts have made many a guest put away the diet “just until the festival is over.” Peggy Belbas has worked with pastries all 50 years of the event. Until recently, she spent 12-hour days during the festival. Lately she has cut back to 10 hours. Everyone’s favorite, she recalls, is baklava. Layers of delicately thin pastry leaves called filo are buttered and filled with nuts and spices, and then drizzled in honey syrup. Peggy estimates 10,000 pieces will be sold in the bakery this year, with an equal number of Greek wedding cookies.
Demetrius says he is pleased to see so many young adults step up to assume responsibilities. “They learn the meaning of service and dedication from their parents and grandparents, and they are now preparing to accept leadership roles. We see three generations working side by side to make this a successful event.”
Shoppers can enjoy imported Greek foods, gifts, T-shirts and more in the marketplace. Another area will showcase fine jewelry.
Aside from food, one of the most celebrated aspects of the festival is the folk dancing, presented with authentic ethnic costumes. Entertainment Coordinator Reneé Michalopulos traveled extensively through Greece to learn regional dances and brought them back to Tulsa. Six groups of dancers, ranging from ages 5 to 55, will perform dances that are hundreds of years old and that tell stories of harvest, wars, love, and passion for Greece.
A portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit local, national and international charities. In the past, they have assisted John 3:16, the American Red Cross and victims from major fires in Greece.
Hours for the festival are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults after 4 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday. Children are admitted free when accompanied by parents. All foods are available to go. Major credit cards are accepted for food, bakery, marketplace and fine jewelry items. For more information, call (918) 583-2082. Entertainment schedules are posted online at www.TulsaGreekHoliday.com.
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.
1222 S. Guthrie Ave. | Tulsa, OK