With the summer games upon us, did you know that the Olympics originated over 3,000 years ago in southwest Greece? That’s right, the games were originally held every four years in Olympia, a valley near the ancient city of Elis, giving the games the title of the Olympics. Legend has said that Hercules created the games to honor his father Zeus. When the games originated is still unknown but the first games were recorded in 776 B.C..
When the Olympics first began, it wasn’t the 16 day event it is today. It was actually only a one day, one event sprint from one end of the stadium to the other. The track at this time, was also much wider than our modern tracks, about twenty people could run at a time. The first recorded Olympic champion was a cook from the City of Elis winning the 192 meter sprint. As the Olympics became more popular, more games were added, making it a four day event. This included wrestling, boxing, long jump, javelin, discus and chariot racing. One of the toughest events for the athletes was the Hoplite race (Hoplitodromos) where the athletes wore helmets, greaves (shin armor) and shields, adding 50 pounds to their body weight and ran across the stadium.
Victors of the ancient games received a victory crown called Kotinos, made of wild olive leaves and an olive branch, it was presented to them by Hellanodikai (Judges of the Greek). This was significant because the Olive trees in Olympia were thought to have been planted by Hercules. Amongst the rewards for winning Olympic competitions were a red woolen ribbon, worn on the upper arm or the head. Champions also had the opportunity to marry prestigious women, enjoy free meals, receive invitations to parties and have the best seats in the theaters. Unfortunately, the Olympics were shut down in 393 A.D. but they were reborn in 1896 in Athens in our modern format. These games featured 280 participants from 13 nations competing in 43 events. Since then, the Olympics have grown to have 207 countries competing, with 306 events in 28 sports categories.
With only 24 hours until Greek Fest, it is time to start deciding what you want to do, while you are there. Three days of fun, excitement and the opportunity to try so many new things, you will have a hard time deciding where to start. The food options alone could keep a person busy for multiple hours, just deciding what to eat could be considered the dilemma of the decade! A new recipe has been used for the Tiropita, so even if you had one in previous year, I suggest trying it again. The flavors are bigger and more scrumptious than ever. The pastries have been freshly baked and drizzled with honey and syrups, your mouth will water just at the sight of them. It is wonderful that this year there will be a Last Stop Pastry booth at the exit so you will not be able to forget those delectable delights.
With temperatures expected to be in the low to mid 90s it is the perfect weather to sit back and enjoy a cold beer or a nice glass of wine. You are already at Greek Fest, so why not enjoy a Greek Microbrew or a cold bottle of Mythos. For the wine lovers out there, there will be a variety of Greek wines to taste and try at the Wine Tasting Bar. If you’re a coffee fan, there will be Greek coffee and frappés available depending on what you are craving.
This year we welcome a special guest, the HoHLaX trio, just arriving from Greece! We are the only festival to feature Greek musicians and you’ll find them located on Plato’s Patio on Friday and Saturday. Additionally joining us again in celebration of the 55 years, The Olympians from Long Beach will be playing Friday to Sunday on the main stage. Do not forget to bring your dancing shoes! It would not be a Greek party without dancing. Public dance lessons will take place allowing everyone a chance to participate and enjoy the festivities.
Children will be entertained and have a blast at Youth Olympic Park where there are more than just a few activities to keep them busy. New this year, the kid’s area will feature a station where kids can build their own paper rocket and launch it, gold panning, remote control boats, and a golf ball squirt. The area will still offer bounce houses, a gemstone search, leather stamping, candle making, a ball shoot, and a Tiny Tots Area for all children under 4 years of age.
The shopping area has also been expanded. The Agora, located by the Dionysios Dining Tent, will feature more than 40 vendors, offering everything from Greek trinkets to art and jewelry. In the Greek Market, you will be able to find anything from honey to Greek herbs and spices; many of the items here will be imported from Greece.
There will be something for everyone! Do not miss out on Fresno’s the festival of the season; bring your friends and your family to the 55th Annual Fresno Greek Fest! Tickets are available in advance online!
Greek immigrants founded St. George in 1923; the original church was on Fresno Street just west of Highway 99 near Kearney Boulevard. It moved to the present location in 1955. Since the churches’ completion, the 70-by-45-foot ceiling has been bare. The project to add a Christ Pantocrator (portrait) has been half a century in the making.
St. George Greek Orthodox Church began the search for an iconographer in 1998, after several sizable donations were made specifically to fund the project. By 2005, fifteen different iconographers from the USA, Canada, Italy, and Greece were considered for the job. Nevertheless, later that year the extensive search to find an iconographer led George Gianopulous, chairman of St. George’s Iconography Committee, to visit an art gallery in Carmel, California that featured Russian artists. Gianopulous asked if they knew anybody good. They gave the name Valery Butyrsky.
Valery Butyrsky was an instructor at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. Emails and phone calls were exchanged before he was asked to come to the United States to meet in person and look at the church’s sanctuary. After visiting for two weeks, Butyrsky agreed to the job. He returned to Russia and began sketching the templates using charcoal. The church committee approved the sketches and Butyrsky boarded a plane with his family and came to Fresno; giving up his job as a faculty member to come here.
Work began on the ceiling and walls to prepare for Butyrsky. Massive scaffolding was erected so he could work. With the help of Butyrsky’s wife Larisa, they began transferring the templates to the ceiling. In October of 2006, Butyrsky received approval from the committee to begin painting with acrylics, oils, and gold leaf. He expected to be finished by June of 2007 but an unexpected pregnancy caused him to fall behind. Butyrsky’s wife Larisa became pregnant with their second child, and with her unable to climb the scaffolding he worked by himself. The ceiling bodywork was finished in 2011, but the final phase of the project was not completed until this year.
Today the entire church is painted and finished. The awe inspiring iconography fills the ceiling for all patrons and visitors to enjoy. Butyrsky’s work is loved and appreciated by so many individuals. Today Valery Butyrsky lives in Fresno with his family, and continues to do private work when hired. The finished ceiling has closed a chapter of the church’s history and opened a new one, focused on giving back to the community that made everything possible.
While for 55 years the Fresno Greek Fest has been a celebration of all things Greek, the goal of the event has always been to give back to the community. This year they add a new name to the list; St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center Fund. On September 11, 2001, the twin towers collapsed on the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. In the years following the attack, rebuilding was the next step in the healing process.
The St. Nicholas Shrine will be more than just a church. As a place of prayer and meditation, the shrine will be a sanctuary for all people, visitors from around the world, family members of the victims, and all souls affected by tragedy. Remembrance is the key to building a better future for the generations to come, and this shrine will serve as a place of learning. The entire structure will have programs of remembrance designed specifically for surviving family members, interreligious educational programs, and cultural events for everyone to participate in while visiting. To learn more visit www.stnicholaswtc.org and to donate visit https://fresnogreekfest.showare.com/DonationAddToBasket.asp?camp=11.
Greek churches across the United States are joining forces to help rebuild and return St. Nicholas Shrine to Ground Zero. The Shrine will be built in the shadow of the Freedom Tower and directly across from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. This year $1 from every ticket sold will go toward the goal of raising $25,000 for the St. Nicholas National Shrine WTC Fund. A booth will be set up for festivalgoers to learn about the St. Nicolas Shrine and what it will represent. Acceptance of additional donations will take place at the booth and the exit.
On a local level, Fresno Greek Fest donates to a wide variety of organizations in the Central Valley. “It’s really a circle of giving, because our community loves Fresno Greek Fest and with their amazing support it’s a gift that goes right back to the community,” said Peterangelo Vallis, Executive Director of the event. Canned foods collected at the gate are shared with the Community Food Bank, the Rescue Mission and Poverello House. Organizations such as Sunnyside High School, Bullard High School, Roosevelt High School, Clovis East High Schools’ Boys Basketball, Boys and Girls Water Polo, Choir and Forensics Teams, Boy Scouts of America, Victory Outreach, Fresno Soap Company, Modesto Dance Groups, and Buchannan High School, are provided with donations for their programs. “There is an old saying about ‘beware of Greeks bearing gifts’,” laughs Vallis. “Fresno Greeks have gifted the Valley with fifty-five years of love.”
For more information about the Fresno Greek Festival Donations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office at (559) 233-0397.
How can a cultural event survive more than half a century? Love! The Fresno community has embraced the Fresno Greek Fest, its traditions and taken them on as a part of their own. The family event has grown every year with attendance increasing by the thousands. The food has always been the centerpiece of the event. Fresno Greeks of all ages have helped keep the traditions alive for future generations. The Central Valley is made up of over 80 different ethnic groups with different beliefs but come August everyone is ready to enjoy the food, the family fun, music and dancing. For three days, everyone is an Honorary Greek! Fresno Greek Fest is the only festival in the central valley that brings together Greek traditions with a family atmosphere and literally TONS of homemade Greek foods, all to raise funds for the needy.
The amount of time spent preparing for the festival is mind-boggling! When the last fair-goer has walked out the gate on the final day, the festival committee is already thinking about ways to improve and grow the festival for the next year. The preparation goes far beyond the food, there are teams of people for set up, clean up, parking, people who ensure the Point of Sale system is working, and then there are the volunteers that help during the event. Preparing for the extravaganza is a full time job. This giant party is the perfect combination of food, family and fun! This cultural experience has become a tradition that keeps attendees coming back for more.
Everyone loves Greek Fest! Why? Well, the answer is somewhat long winded, but essentially, it’s because there is literally something for everyone! Shopping for the shopaholic, games and crafts for the kids, wine and beer tasting for those brave enough, and of course food for everyone! They have sweets for a sweet tooth fanatic, meat for all the carnivores and enough veggie entrees for all the veggie lovers in the Valley. It is a great place to take your family and to hang out with friends. So come be Greek for a weekend and bring some one along. You will not be disappointed! OPA!