Rooster and I travel to South Bend, Indiana to attend the 44th Michiana Greek Festival. We discovered some amazing things about Greek Culture. #South Bend #Indiana #Michiana Greek Festival #Nesting dolls #Orthodox Church
The Michiana Greek Festival
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the 2002 romantic comedy featuring Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, is one of our favorite films. Rooster and I know nothing about Greek culture beyond Socrates and the Parthenon. We don’t come from a Greek family. There aren’t many Greeks living in the part of Indiana where we. When we heard St Andrew Greek Orthodox Church was holding the 44th Michiana Greek Festival, we decided it was time we experienced Greek culture in another form than in a movie theater. Therefore, a desire to spend the day immersed
Great day to ride to South Bend
We planned to ride the motorcycle to South Bend for our tiny dose of Greek culture. The overcast skies made us wonder if it might not be a better idea to jump in the Sunshine Mobile to make the eighty-eight-mile trip. We debated the issue, took a final look at the radar, and pulled the Dark Horse out of the garage. We hadn’t traveled far before we knew we’d made the right decision. The overcast sky blocked the heat from the sun. The day had all the ingredients for the perfect spring ride. We made it to the outskirts of South Bend, Indiana, without getting wet. We patted ourselves on the back for choosing to ride the motorcycle as we pulled into the parking lot of St Andrew Greek Orthodox Church.
South Bend’s population is prominently Irish. The University of Notre Dame with its Fighting Irish is the city’s major attraction. I noticed as we cruised the streets of the city, there were numerous Catholic churches scattered along the way. It was hard for me to imagine preserving Greek culture surrounded by so many people of different ethnicity. The folks at St Andrew appear to be doing an excellent job of keeping Greek traditions alive in this city on the St Joseph River not far from the Michigan border.
When we climbed off the bike, the first thing to capture our attention was the sound of Greek music performed by a band on a makeshift stage. The people sitting under a colorful tent with picnic tables where you could enjoy a meal yell “Opa” at appropriate times in the song. We moved to a booth and bought food tickets. At our first stop on our Greek adventure, we bought what looked like a chicken kebab, but Rooster and I are sure the meal went by another name.
Whatever they called it; the food was good. We made our way to the booths set up in the middle of the event. Vendors sold everything from Russian nesting dolls to boxes made from elephant poop. (The poop boxes were at a merchant tent that sold goods from around the world. They looked very decorative for an item constructed from dung.) Kids jumped in the bouncy houses. They appeared to be having a lot of fun.
We moved inside the rear of the church because it was mentioned we could find baklava inside the building. I looked on the menu, found a baklava Sunday, and knew I had to have one. A goat was roasting on a spit next to the entrance of the building. I was starting to believe I was experiencing a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. What we walked into was a massive room, which functioned as a sort of community center.
Not only did we devour a baklava Sunday, but we also sampled every dessert they had for sale on the table. We discovered two things important about the Greeks. They like to eat, and they know how to cook. We sat down at a table where another couple was already seated. They didn’t mind the company. They’d come to the Greek Festival for the food. I could see it was a major attraction.
A woman soon joined us. A conversation about genealogy commenced. She traced her family’s origin all the way back to Germany. She’d traveled to the village from which her ancestors immigrated to America. She said the village looked like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale complete with castle and moat.
At the top of the list of activities was a tour of the church sanctuary. The room made for worship was an impressive work of art. Our guide explained how experts in church painting knew the brush strokes needed to create the icons lining the walls of the chapel. The paintings told the story of the gospel and represented the apostles, Mary, and the saints.
Icons at the Orthodox Church
At one point in history, many of the people in a congregation couldn’t read. A person walking into an Orthodox church could understand the entire history of Christ’s life and his mission of redemption by looking at the walls of the sanctuary. The woman went into detail about the beliefs of the Greek Orthodox Church. Our guide pointed out that not only Greeks belonged to the Orthodox Church.
The members also came from communist countries and the Middle East. That explained the Russian nesting dolls sold by a vendor at a tent outside. It was obvious faith was an important element in Greek life.
A movie about modern Greece
After we were finished touring the sanctuary, we moved into an area next to the church gift shop where we could view a movie about Greece. The man showing the film gave us an extensive history of Greece from the beginning of time to the Byzantine era. The man instructing us on Greek history reminded me of Tula’s father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who attributed every word a person could imagine to an origin in the Greek language no matter how far the stretch.
He was a self-appointed etymologist. It is true the Greeks did influence every field of study known to western man in a significant way. The film consisted of videos of Greece and its many islands. The Mediterranean was as blue as the sky. White terracotta houses lined the rocky hillside in the villages viewed in the documentary. The country appeared to be very rocky and mountainous.
The man who gave us the extensive Greek history lesson told us the houses were made of stucco. They were painted white to keep the people living inside cool and protected from the heat.
Storm moving in our direction
Rooster nudged me and showed me his cellphone before the movie finished. The picture of the radar revealed a storm system moving in our direction. “It might be a good idea if we left now,” he whispered. The goat roasting on the spit smelled delicious when we walked out the door of the community center. I was sad we’d miss the Greek dancers scheduled to put on a show in a couple of hours.
We have to make a return trip next year to catch the performance. The ride home was uneventful. We made it without getting wet. The skies were blue for the entire trip home. I was starting to wonder if Rooster had looked at the wrong radar until the skies started to cloud up an hour after we were settled in for the night. Thunder erupted and lightning bolts streaked from the sky. I was glad to be inside where I was safe and dry. It turned out to be a very good day.
The Michiana Greek Festival gave me a wonderful taste of Greek culture. I can’t wait to go back again next year. I almost felt like I was Greek for the day. With that thought, I’ll leave you with a loud Opa.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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