Thursday, September 8, 2011

Greece - Without a Passport

Athenian Dance Group - Salt Lake City Greek Festival 2011

I travel any way I can.  Today I went to Greece!  Since the Salt Lake City Greek Festival is in its 36th year, I decided it was about time I checked it out.  This year, the Festival added a 4th day, opening on Thursday evening.  Step off the street, pay your $3 admission fee, and enter a world full of the sights and sounds of Greece.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Our first stop was the Holy Trinity Cathedral, which was constructed in 1905.  It has lovely stained glass windows and paintings inside.  Photography is allowed in the church.

One of the stained glass windows

Stained glass windows.

There were signs posted explaining various things around the church, and there were helpful guides inside to answer any questions.

Holy Trinity Cathedral Interior

After viewing the cathedral, we went through the gift shop area and food area into the dancing and seating area.  You can find a treat or a full meal, and the food lines are organized and move pretty quickly.  There is also quite a bit of seating under the large tent.  You can get a treat such as baklava for $3.50, or for about $10, you can get a whole dinner.  We sampled loukoumathes (think large donut holes dipped in honey) and tryopites (cheese filled phyllo pastries) while we watched the dancing.

 Athenian Group performs

The dance groups change regularly on the stage.  There are approximately 4,000 traditional Greek dances, and while you are at the Festival, take some time to watch some of them being performed.  The dances vary by region.  We particularly enjoyed the Pentozali, a fast-paced dance that originated in Crete.  It began as a war dance performed around a campfire.  The Athenian dance group performed it on Thursday evening, and it was definitely a Festival highlight.

Parthenon Dance Group

Parthenon dance group performs

We purchased a box of assorted pastries to take home.  You can get a pre-selected assortment for $20, or choose your own pastries a la carte.  The Greek Festival also features cooking demonstrations, a children's area with bounce houses and face painting, and a gift shop area, and a Hellenic cultural museum.  The shopping area includes art, jewelry, clothing, and imports such as olives and feta cheese.

Icon inside the cathedral

Parking is a bit of a challenge.  We were fortunate to find free street parking a couple blocks south of the Festival.  There is valet parking offered on 300 West right near the Festival tent for $6.  The Greek Festival grows each year, and has hosted as many as 50,000 guests.  It was full the night we went, but didn't feel overcrowded.  Seating opened up regularly, and the lines moved quickly.  This is a family-friendly event, and is well organized and very fun.  Grab a Greek pastry and sit back and enjoy the music!

If you go:  the Greek Festival runs from September 8-11 this year (2011).  Admission is $3. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is on the south end of the Festival area and you can pay your admission at the tent on the west side of the cathedral.  It is located at 279 South 300 West in Salt Lake City.  The Greek Festival continues on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11am to 11pm.

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