Dallas the Greek

Since it moved its digs to shiny North Dallas, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church has lost its dingy historic authenticity. When it haunted the old, sprawling, stained-glass church building on Swiss Avenue, half-buried under decades' worth of dense flora and fauna and sitting smack in the middle of a street block teeming with potholes--now that was interesting. Especially when the uninitiated turned up in droves every autumn to fight for a parking place and soak up a bit of the charm.

Nonetheless, Holy Trinity still garners plenty of citywide appreciation each year with its Greek Festival of Dallas, an ethnic blowout of monstrous proportions and damn good fun. September 24-27, the church hosts its 42nd annual event, and the 5-year-old Hillcrest location boasts plenty of parking and room to jig, as well as a (superficial) sense of renewed safety for those cowards who failed to attend the original site because of the blanket downtown threat called "crime." Granted, the expansive church family deserved a bigger, more stable building and an accessible location for its ambitious fundraiser, and the slight loss of eccentricity doesn't make the festival any less a destination for all things Greek--and Eastern Orthodox--and high-spirited. What started out as a modest bake sale in 1956 has become the longest-running ethnic festival in the metroplex and a religion-defying spectacle; more than 20,000 visitors hit it these days.

For the savvy non-Orthodox, the biggest reason to show up is the grub. A modest fee will get you a paper plate piled high with the tastiest, greasiest, most authentic homemade fare this side of New York's East Village: souvlaki, dolma, tabouli, baklava, gyros, baba ghanoush, and a dozen other delicacies that don't make it onto the circumscribed menus of Dallas' handful of Greek restaurants. These people embrace their heritage with an affectionate pride that shows up in their cooking, and the festival's market area, adjacent to the food tent, offers take-home versions of the same, most notably the pastries, which join an array of Eastern-style religious iconographic crafts.

Keep that palate refreshed with the heady Greek wine and your ears flooded with swirling Eastern music, but only join the folk dancing if you know the intricate steps. Watching the hundreds of church members perform, from little kids to grizzled seniors, in dizzying circles of whooping, joyous celebration is contagious enough for the legions reverent observers. Eat up.

--Christina Rees

The 42nd Annual Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Festival, Sept. 24-27 at the church grounds; southwest corner of Alpha and Hillcrest. Admission: $3 daytime, and $5 in the evenings.

 
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