Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press
The members of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Troy enjoy sharing and celebrating their Greek culture each year at a lively festival, the Opa! Fest.
This year’s will be the 20th annual Opa! Fest, June 21-23, also celebrating St. Nicholas’ 77th anniversary.
“(Opa! Fest is) for everybody, a very family-orientated event for sure,” said Nick Phillips, Opa! Fest committee member. “It’s open to the Greek community to enjoy the dancing and culture, but also non-Greek individuals are more than welcome to enjoy the Greek foods, music and dancing.”
FYI: St. Nicholas’ 20th annual Opa! Fest runs 4-11 p.m. Friday, June 21, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 22, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 23 at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 760 W. Wattles Road, Troy. Admission is $2 per person except for 4-6 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, when all admission is free. Military personnel and their families, plus children 12 and younger get in free anytime, and admission is also with donation of three canned food items. Free parking with shuttle service available at Walsh College. For more information, visit www.opafest.com, call Nick Phillips at 248-295-7112 or email email@example.com.
The event is the largest Greek festival in Metro Detroit, Phillips says. The three-day celebration includes authentic Greek foods and beverages, live entertainment, shopping, a church tour and children’s events. Children can find fun with inflatable rides, games and crafts.
Art and other cultural displays will be shown as guests tour the church. Holding the event there provides an opportunity to connect the parish and community, as well as raise funds to support church programs and activities, Phillips says.
In addition to helping the church, proceeds from the festival also go to Gleaner’s Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest. Three cans of food may be donated in place of admission, to fill the Gleaner’s truck over the weekend.
Food and shopping are a big part of Opa! Fest. Plaka Marketplace in the banquet room will sell artwork, clothing, pastries and other Greek merchandise.
Greek food will be served and prepared on-site. Cooking demonstrations will teach people how to prepare Greek meals. The Three Greek Sisters of Toronto will be at the event on Saturday, making meals from two of their healthy Greek cookbooks, which will be available for sale and signing that day.
The festival will also feature a kafeneio, serving Greek coffee, and a taverna for the 21 and older crowd.
Entertainment at the festival is also another reflection of the culture. Local group Enigma Detroit will play all weekend. Together for 13 years, the seven-piece Greek band has traveled around the country, says leader and founder Michael Livanos of Troy.
Livanos said today’s Greek music is a modern twist on tradition. He described it as a “mix of pop, rock and Middle Eastern flair,” performed with bouzouki, a tradition mandolin-style Greek instrument.
“There is a wide variety of it — so many types of Greek music,” Livanos said. “It’ll definitely get you up to dance. It’s very rhythmical.”
While they’ve performed at weddings, clubs and other local festivals, this is the band’s sixth year playing at St. Nick’s Opa Fest.
“Opa! Fest is the largest Greek festival in Detroit,” Livanos said. “There are several other ones, but it’s probably the most exclusive and highly organized festival. There’s great entertainment. It exhibits culture to the fullest. If you really want to see Greek culture, you go to the Opa! Fest.”
Dancing to the music, nine groups from the church will perform at this year’s event. The groups are made up of 250 first-, fifth- and sixth-generation Greek children and young adults. Dance Director Tina Souphis has been in charge of the groups since Opa! Fest’s beginning.
Practicing starts each year in January for the children, who meet about twice a month to prepare for the festival. Young adults work on their moves all year, rehearsing about three times a month.
Souphis said she loves seeing the dancers’ progress, and they all get excited to dance.
Performers sport authentic Greek costumes, unique to their ancestral region. Dancing helps them learn about and celebrate their culture.
“We love to share a part of our culture, and I think the Greek culture is a very warm and giving community,” Souphis said. “Watching the kids dancing is just beautiful. They’re so graceful in some of their moves and dances.”