Greektown Heritage Festival and Greekfest invite all to celebrate Greek culture

Kaitlyn Luckoff
The Detroit News

 Gyro lovers are in luck.

Expecting to serve more than 500 pounds of lamb, the Greektown Heritage Festival will return Saturday  to celebrate Greek culture with music, dancing, food and drinks. With eight rotating open-pit spots, the street-side lamb roast is one of the spotlights of the event. 

Founded in 2018, the event will return this year after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The free event, sponsored by the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, along with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Hollywood Casino at Greektown and Bedrock, welcomes families and attendees of all ages to Greektown.

Attendees browse the streets of Greektown during a previous festival.

The event is  from 12 p.m. through 9 p.m. on Monroe Street in Detroit, located between Beaubien Street and St. Antoine Street. 

Tasso Teftsis, vice president of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, is in charge of food for the event and said that the idea for the lamb roast was inspired by the villages in Greece that roast lamb during festivals

"It's a beautiful scene with all of the lambs roasting," Teftsis said. "Myself and my neighbors skewer the lambs and we put them on in the morning, and then as people walk by the lamb is already cooked. We give them a taste of the lamb, and they can buy a sandwich."

 Teftsis said they anticipate to serve about 1,000 sandwiches. While the bar and sandwiches will be the only refreshments served in the street, he said that the local restaurants also fill up as the sandwich lines get long.

To accompany the lamb roasting, there will be chairs and tables in the streets for festival attendees to enjoy their sandwiches at. There will also be games for children.

"We have Greek music and live bands all day and we have Greek dancing, they (attendees) can also participate in the dancing as well," Teftsis said. "It's really a lot of fun. It's a very authentic experience to be down here and enjoy our culture and heritage."

Dancers perform at the Greek Heritage Festival in 2018.

Spero Dionysopoulos is the co-owner of the oldest restaurant in Greektown, Golden Fleece, as well as Exodus Rooftop and Bakaliko Greek Market. All three of his establishments are members of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, and he said that he is looking forward to the business that the festival brings to his restaurants.

"I'm just excited for everybody to come see all the restaurants and everything that my culture has to offer," Dionysopoulos said. "We're very excited for everyone to come down for something different, to enjoy the Greek culture."

Dionysopoulos said that the last Greek Heritage Festival was a great success and fun event for all who attended.

"Before the pandemic was the last one (Greek Heritage Festival) and it was very nice," Dionysopoulos said. "There was a lot of people and everybody really loves the roast lamb and they also come to restaurants and try things that maybe they've never tried before." 

The Greektown Hollywood Casino parking garage is the most convenient parking available for the event. For those who do not wish to park in a structure, Annunciation Cathedral and St. Mary's Church parking lots will also be available.

Dancers performing at a previous GreekFest.

Taking place later this summer, the celebration of Greek culture and community will continue at GreekFest, inviting those from all over to join in and be Greek for the day. Slated for Aug. 18 through 21, the Assumption Cultural Center's GreekFest will feature food, cultural events, entertainment, dancing, games and many more fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. The festival will be hosted at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in St. Clair Shores.

Kicking off the four days of celebration will be the grand opening ceremony at 5 p.m. Aug. 18, recognizing community leaders. 

At the end of the weekend, six raffle winners will be selected: first prize is $10,000, second prize is a David Yurman bracelet, donated by Ahee Jewelers ($3,500 value), third prize is $500, and fourth, fifth, and sixth prizes are all $200. Tickets for the raffle are $10 each and can be purchased  at  assumptionfestival.com or at the Assumption's office.

Tom Thomas, one of the four co-chairs of the festival, said that the event has taken place for many years. However, there was a hiatus and the event was revived in 2008. He said the main attractions of the event are the entertainment and food. For those wishing to enjoy the authentic Greek cuisine without attending the festival, there is a carryout option. 

"(I'm looking forward to) finally getting back together with the community," Thomas said. "This is more of a community effort. It doesn't matter if the people are Greek or American, everybody gets together and enjoys themselves."

Thomas also said that there will be a marketplace with items from all over the world, and an opportunity for a tour to learn about the religious history of the church.

As people gather from surrounding areas to join in on the festivities for the day, co-chair George Dallas invites community members of all cultures and backgrounds to come enjoy the event.

"It's an opportunity for people to enjoy the Greek culture without going to Greece," Dallas said. "Come be Greek for a day."

Festival admission is $2, and free for children under 12. There will be free parking and shuttle services available as well. Proceeds collected will go towards the Ukrainian Children's IOCC Fund and Cass Community Social Services. Additionally, funds from the festival will contribute to maintaining community events at the church.

Greektown Heritage Festival

Saturday's schedule:

12 – 2:30 pm           Aegean Roots

2:30 – 3:00 pm             Hellenic Society of Performing Arts Dancers 

3 – 5:30 pm             Enigma

5:30 – 6 pm             Cretan Pseloretes of Detroit

6 – 8:30 pm             DJ Nico Blu

Assumption GreekFest

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church: 21800 Marter Road, St. Clair Shores

Aug. 18, 4-10 p.m.

Aug. 19, 4-11 p.m.

Aug. 20, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Aug. 21, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.