Panegyri Is No Small Wonder
Popular Greek Fest continues to amaze 31 years later
Friday, Jul. 5 - 7
Four of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World existed within the Greek Empire, each one an amazing feat of human architecture and engineering. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia stood 40 feet tall, with skin of ivory and robes of hammered gold. The Colossus of Rhodes was no less impressive, a 110-foot-tall bronze figure of the Greek god Helios (sovereign of the sun) surveying the Rhodian harbor. Or how about The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus or the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, wildly ornate stone sanctuaries looming high above astounded onlookers?
Now consider a single piece of baklava pastry, a multilayered marvel of flaky phyllo dough and crushed spiced walnuts, over 40 alternating strata fused together with honey sweet syrup. If you weren't around to shed tears for the crumbling of Zeus or Colossus, you'll surely get misty-eyed as one of these buttery labors of love is crushed between your mandibles. The volunteers at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church prepare them by the thousands for each year's Panegyri, or "Greek Fest," its annual ode to Hellenic culture and fundraiser for its ministries.
In the pantheon of Erie ethnic festivals, Panegyri has long reigned supreme, drawing tens of thousands to the church grounds each July for a weekend-long marathon of Greek food, music, and culture. Outside the church you'll find savory street fare like gyros and Greek dogs and fries; inside you can indulge in full lamb shank and fish dinners and delicacies like dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), moussaka (eggplant lasagna), and spanakopita (spinach pie). And those pastries — those sweet, beautiful pastries. Nutty baklava and kataifi. Chocolaty yogurt cake. Creamy, custard-filled galaktoboureko. Fruity pasta flora. If you're not sure what your Achilles heel is, try a sampler (and don't share your weakness with anyone).
Of course, plenty of ouzo (an anise-flavored aperitif), beer, and wine will be available to get revelers in the proper spirit — if the authentic music and dancing doesn't do the trick. Tour the church and church cafeteria for a gander at beautiful iconography, jewelry, and artwork; and while you're there, enter yourself for a trip to Greece.
Only two lucky winners will get that far, but tens of thousands will get pretty close by simply attending one of Erie's most cherished summer rituals. — Matt Swanseger
Friday 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (fireworks), Sunday noon to 7 p.m. // 4376 W. Lake Rd. // Free admission and parking // erieorthodox.org