Tulsa's Greek Festival has long tradition for food, fun
BY NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
9/19/12 at 3:07 AM
Tulsans can't get enough of the Greek Festival and its food.
At 52 years and counting, the annual festival at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 1206 S. Guthrie Ave., sets new records every year.
"Last year was our highest grossing festival ever," said Demetrius Bereolos, a coordinator of the event that opens to the public Thursday.
By the end of the festival, the ladies of the church who make the pastries will have made 35,000 pieces. That's also a new record, said Diana Capehart, head of the bakery.
"It is an incredible feat for us. Everything in our bakery is prepared by hand," Capehart said. "Every year we sell out and I have to start taking orders."
Foods like baklava and gyros are popular in several area eateries, but the festival also features some traditional foods that aren't easily found, Bereolos said.
And the Mediterranean diet is also a popular food trend now, in part due to the health benefits of common ingredients such as olive oil, greens and grains.
"We are the biggest Greek restaurant in Tulsa three days a year," Bereolos said.
Until about five years ago, the festival did not feature lamb because organizers didn't think that many Oklahomans would want it, he said.
"But I said, 'How can you have a Greek Festival without lamb?' " said Marios Parperis, head of the festival's kitchen operations. "Before, we just had chicken and pork.
"The first year, we were hesitant. We were not sure Tulsa would want lamb." He said they made a couple hundred pounds but ran out and had to find a store that sold lamb to replenish their supply. The second and third year, they increased the amount of lamb cooked and still ran out.
Now, Parperis will prepare 800 to 1,000 pounds of lamb for the event, which seems to be an appropriate amount for the demand.
They order the domestic lamb - which has a milder flavor than imported - from Colorado. Every morning of the festival he started before dawn cooking the lamb.
We found Parperis and his wife making the creamy cucumber tzatziki sauce in the days before the festival. The smell of the English cucumbers - which have fewer seeds and less moisture than traditional cucumbers - and lemon filled the kitchen as they worked.
The Greek festival's success is a testament to the devoted parishioners of the church, who work throughout the year to keep the event a growing Tulsa tradition.
Entire families - such as Parperis; his wife, Kate; and their four children, Stavros, Kostas, Zoe and Sophia - contribute to the festival.
Kate Parperis helps with baking, coordinates volunteers and has been active in the church renovations. And the children are in the youth dance groups.
"The children are very dedicated," Kate Parperis said. "No one has ever said, 'I don't want to go to practice.' They are very proud, and they bring their friends to come see them dance. They are very excited, and they look forward to it."
Kate Parperis said the festival has grown much in her lifetime.
"It just used to be the older men of the church, and they would prepare a meal for the people of the church," she said. "It has changed so much, and I am really proud to be a part of it. I have never run into anyone in Tulsa who has not been to the Greek Festival."
And Bereolos said the younger generations of Greeks are happy to keep the tradition of the Greek Festival going.
"We are now seeing more and more third-generation (Greeks) being mentored by their Yayas and Pappous so they can take over one day."
Greek Festival pastries by the numbers
Baklava: 13,000 pieces
Koulourakia, shortbread cookie: 9,100 pieces
Galaktoboureko, a custard pie baked in filo dough: 1,600 pieces
Finikia, an orange spice cookie with walnuts: 6,000 pieces
Kourambiethes, almond-flavored butter cookies with powdered sugar: at least 5,000
Tulsa Greek Festival
Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
After 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and all day Saturday, admission is $3 for adults. Children, when accompanied by parents, are always admitted free.
The a la carte menu features nine home-cooked Greek foods including lamb, char-grilled shish kabob, gyros sandwich, Greek salad, calamari, and a Greek appetizer plate with cheese pie, feta cheese, olives and spinach pie.
EPSA, an imported carbonated drink, will be among the beverages sold in the tavern.
A seven-day Mediterranean cruise will be raffled at the Festival. At the marketplace, Tulsa Greek Festival visitors can buy imported Greek food and gifts - such as clothes, jewelry, olive oil, Kalamata olives and the Tulsa Greek Festival T-shirt.
Dancers in authentic ethnic costumes will perform dances that tell stories of harvest, wars, love and passion for Greece. Tours of newly renovated Holy Trinity Church will be conducted throughout Tulsa Greek Festival by Father William Christ.
1 pound strained Greek yogurt
4-5 cloves of minced garlic, to taste
1 large English cucumber, shredded
1 tablespoon of dill
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup of olive oil
1. Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve with foods such as lamb, chicken, rice and pita.
Original Print Headline: Greek goodness
Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
Marios Parperis cuts lamb in preparation for the upcoming Greek Festival. Because the festival ran out of lamb during the past three events, Parperis said he will prepare 800 to 1,000 pounds of lamb in an effort to meet the demand. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Until about five years ago, the festival did not serve lamb because organizers didn't think many Oklahomans would want it. "But I said, 'How can you have a Greek Festival without lamb?' " says Marios Parperis. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Diana Capehart sprinkles sugar over a piece of dessert at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World
Marios Parperis and Kate Parperis make tzatziki in preparation for the upcoming Greek Festival. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World