With another school year just around the corner, summer is (like it or not) slowly winding down. But of course, we can’t say farewell to the season without a few more festivals! If you’re looking for an action-packed weekend, be sure to hit up these two local fests: St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church (2727 W. Winona St.) ushers in their 62nd annual Chicago’s Greekfest 2010, while the North Side Summerfest rounds out the action on Lincoln Avenue (4050 N. Lincoln Ave., just north of Irving Park). Both events kick off on Friday, August 20, and run through Sunday, Aug. 22 .
If my Greek college roommate, Eleni, taught me anything, it’s that Greek people take pride in their heritage and culture. I was constantly reminded during our time together that everything significant is either Greek or was invented by Greeks! Also, being Greek apparently involves six key components: food, family, friends, music, dancing, and laughter.
Chicago’s Greekfest 2010 incorporates all these things. Of all of the street festivals I have covered, this is the first time I have encountered a complete “MENU“ tab on a fest website. No corn-on-the-cob or fried dough served here! This Greekfest is the real deal, featuring homemade dishes served by the pros (think: grandmothers in aprons).
Among the specialties on the menu are: gyros, pistachio, galatobouriko (Greek dessert of custard sometimes flavored with lemon or orange in phyllo), baklava, freshly carved lamb, and of course, Greek coffee and frappe available for purchase at the Kafenio (coffeeshop).
Three chairmen, Zach Bazianos, Dr. John Laftsidis, and Chris Tsiones, working alongside coordinator Anastasia Weaver, started planning for this year?s fest four months ago. Hundreds of church volunteers unite to pull off the event that serves up some 2,000+ chickens over the course of three days.
“The fest has doubled in size over the past three years,” says Weaver, who as we speak, is directing kitchen staff pumping out last-minute delectables. “Every year we sell out of everything we prepare,” she says. “It’s always a little nerve-racking—like when you prepare a dinner for 10 people and 25 show up.”
Chicago’s Greekfest 2010 will feature two new items: whole lambs (rotisserie roasted on-site) and Ouzon, an ouzo-flavored non-alcoholic soda (making its first appearance in the Midwest). Moreover, in true Greek spirit, music will round out the festivities with the Northside Band performing on Friday evening from 8 – 10 p.m., and the John Linardakis Band and two of the church?s own dance troupes filling out the roster on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Be sure to stop by the Agora (Greek marketplace) for a large selection of handmade items and Greek imported products. Finally, in keeping with the Greek tradition of family, the children have not been forgotten. The Kiddie Korner Classroom, which includes kids’ rides and clown and puppet shows, has been extended through Saturday and Sunday evening this year. Six of the church’s program teachers will be assisting with a variety of crafts projects, such as bracelet making and a design-your-own-tote activity.
“We have many children in our community, and they are very important to us. The [children's] area was at the top of our planning list at all times,” Weaver said.
Greekfest 2010 is just $2 for adults (children are free), and don’t forget to enter the grand raffle for a chance to win $13,000 (drawing will take place on Sunday evening). Free parking is available at Swedish Covenant Hospital.
The North Side Summerfest, attracting some 20,000 attendees to Northcenter, is a huge neighborhood late-summer bash. It features three days of music, food, drinks, shopping, and fun. This is only the fourth year of the fest, but already it has established itself as quite the party. Admission is $5, and an eclectic music lineup offers a little something for everyone:
Friday, August 20
5 p.m. Robby Celestin
7 p.m. Sixteen Candles
Saturday, August 21
2 p.m. Stache
5 p.m. Too White Crew
8 p.m. Wedding Banned
Sunday, August 22
1 p.m. He Said She Said
4 p.m. Mike and Joe
7 p.m. Hairbangers Ball