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Men in Greek dress dance at the Ya'ssoo Festival, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ya'ssoo Greek Festival

Greek for a day

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

From the June, 2010 issue

I always smile when I drive down Scio Church Road and see the big copper dome topping St. Nick's Greek Orthodox Church. I remember when they built it and moved from their former Main Street location, how proud the children and I were to honor their Greek heritage by sending in our tiny little donation check to do our part. It feels like we have "always" gone to the Ya'ssoo Greek Festival, so I am surprised to discover that it was revived only in 2007 after a twenty-three-year hiatus.

As we enter the gate, we stop and ponder the directions: fourteen brightly painted arrows nailed to a post. To the east: Athens 5273 miles and Constantinople 5328 miles. To the west: Tijuana 1936 miles and Kathmandu 7566 miles. The Kouzina and Taverna are also to the east, so we head east first.

At the Kouzina, under Greek and American flags hanging side by side, classic Greek dishes like souvlaki on a stick, gyro sandwiches with tzatziki yogurt, rich cheesy pastitsio, flaky spinach spanakopita, flaky filo tiropita, and Greek salad (of course) are featured. Greek beer, wine, and ouzo are served at the Taverna.

Afterwards, we follow the sign west to the Kafenio for desserts. So many different kinds of cookies and pastries! There is koulourakia, a braided butter cookie; kourabiethes, a crescent-shaped almond butter cookie rolled in powdered sugar; karithopita, walnut cake soaked in syrup; loukoumathes, syrupy honey puffs; and of course baklava, which I describe to the kids as simply the best dessert in the world. And Greek coffee!

We cruise the jewelry, books, toys, and fashions at the Agora. The older girls finger the sea-colored glass necklaces and examine the gold-trimmed religious art, I scan the Greek children's books and music CDs, and Little Brother tries on a Greek fisherman's hat. Niu Niu cannot resist the "All this cuteness and Greek too" T-shirt.

One year, we went inside for the church tour, offered every half hour. It is so

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beautiful, light, and airy inside, full of the pale sandy colors of the Mediterranean. The iconography is exquisite. Every detail is dripping in symbolism, from the shape of the Byzantine-style church to the protocol in the narthex, and our tour guide patiently explains everything.

We pay special attention to the music and dance performances when we know one of the boys who is dancing. The older Greek School kids are so tall and mature and dance so well; the littler Greek School kids are so cute and sprightly! When the professional Kyklos Hellenic Dancers take the stage, everyone joins in while the music of the Detroit-based Greek band, Enigma, fills the air.

The Ya'ssoo Greek Festival returns June 4-6.     (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2010.]


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