Food remains draw at DeKalb church's Greek Fest

DeKALB – The new location for this year’s Greek Fest was a blessing in disguise. 

While the St. George Greek Orthodox Church had to relocate the weekendlong festival from Hopkins Park to St. Mary Catholic Church in DeKalb, the new location protected the festival from the heavy rain Saturday, said Greek Fest Chairman Bill Vassilogambros.  

“If we had been at Hopkins Park, we would have been washed out,” Vassilogambros said. 

The Greek Fest is a way of bringing Greek culture, food and music to DeKalb. The festival showcases Greek hospitality and warmth, said Steve Lekkas, parish council president for St. George Greek Orthodox Church. Traditional Greek food such as lamb, saganaki and gyros were served along with desserts such as koulouria, which are braided butter cookies. 

This year’s Greek Fest didn’t have the opportunity to invite special guests from the community such as the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team, Lekkas said. The volunteers were more focused on serving the food. 

“That’s always the first priority,” Lekkas said. “No matter what, that’s why everyone comes here.” 

Most people are not aware of the church, but Greek Fest raises the church’s profile in the community, Vassilogambros said. The festival also is the church’s main fundraiser of the year. The festival started about 45 years ago as a church picnic and grew after parishioners brought their relatives, friends and neighbors, he said. 

Greek Fest featured a Greek grocery store for visitors interested in buying Greek rice, pasta and olive oil. The grocery store also offered merchandise such as a fisherman’s cap and scarves. Dorothea Bilder, parishioner for St. George Greek Orthodox Church, said Greek grocery stores are a rarity in the DeKalb area.

“In a lot of malls in the western suburbs, you’ll find a lot of ethnic stores,” Bilder said. “We don’t have that here.” 

Bob and Eleanor Resch traveled more than 25 miles from Paw Paw to attend Greek Fest for the first time. Bob Resch said he liked Greek food and music.

“It was something different,” he said. 

Greek Fest volunteer Yiota Spyratos said some people like the old location and some like the new one. No matter where they hold the festival, people will come. 

“As soon as they hear Greek food, they find us,” Spyratos said.