JOLIET – Three area Orthodox churches are sharing their ethnic heritage this month through their annual festivals.
In addition, Holy Cross Catholic Church in Joliet will host its parish picnic Sunday, which will feature a variety of Polish food and entertainment.
All Saints Greek Orthodox Church
“Joliet’s 2016 Taste of Greek” from July 29 through 31 will feature a variety of food: leg of lamb, shish kebabs, gyros and pastitsio, a macaroni dish that people liken to “a Greek lasagna,” said Maria Meintanis of New Lenox, one of the coordinators.
For dessert, festival-goers can choose baklava and loukoumades, a “Greek doughnut hole with honey.” The Apollo Dance Troupe will entertain on both days. The troupe is comprised mostly of high school students, some of whom belong to All Saints, Meintanis said.
Last year, the church served approximately 2,000 dinners, Meintanis said, and organizers are hoping for an even larger turnout for 2016. Proceeds go into the church’s general fund.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year and covers – probably – a quarter of our expenses for the year,” Meintanis said.
Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Homer Glen
It’s the fourth year for this church’s “Greek For a Day” festival, which is actually held on two days – July 23 and July 24, said Dorothy Michalarias of Oak Lawn, who is co-chairing the event with Steve Karenzis.
“People can experience our tradition, see our church, eat our food,” Michalarias said, “and learn how to dance Greek.”
The festival will include pork and chicken kebabs, gyros, salads, Greek pastries and a DJ. The $1 admission cost benefits the church’s general fund.
“We’re hoping everyone will have a good time,” Michalarias said, “and that we have good weather.”
Holy Cross Parish
Through offering both Polish and American food at its picnic on Sunday, the church represents both its ethnicities, coordinator Mary Nemanich said.
Menu items include pierogies and smoked Polish sausage with sauerkraut, as well as barbecue beef, hot dogs and pizza. Last year, a parishioner surprised organizers by showing up with a batch of homemade blood sausage.
“We sold them until we ran out,” Nemanich said.
The church’s weekly Polish Mass at 10:30 a.m. will move to The Grotto at St. Joseph Park on picnic day. Polish musicians will provide the day’s entertainment at the park. Kids activities and a possible car show round out the day.
Many people don’t realize Joliet, Plainfield and Romeoville have a large Polish community eager to share its heritage, Nemanich said.
“They’re a very accepting, welcoming group,” she said.
St. George Serbian Orthodox Church
Vicki Dorsey of Joliet, who is helping to coordinate this year’s Serb Fest on July 24, said the return of this annual festival is now in its second year. The event is held at St. Joseph Park, just like in the 1970s.
“We decided it would be a good thing to go back out in the community and show our Serbian heritage,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey estimates about 1,200 to 1,500 people attended last year. The day will feature handmade, grilled cevapi (Serbian sausage); shish kebabs; barbecued lamb (“Always a top seller, which is being sold by the pound,” Dorsey said) and a variety of Serbian bakery, including potica and kifle, which other ethnic groups call “rushkies.”
The church’s tambura group – high school youth who have performed together since age 7 – will perform that day, as will the Danny Danilovic Orchestra.
“It’s open to the public, so we hope everyone comes out that day,” Dorsey said. “We look forward to serving the community.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Greek For a Day 2016
WHEN: 3 to 10 p.m. July 23 and 1 to 10 p.m. July 24
WHERE: Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 15625 S. Bell Road, Homer Glen
ETC: Greek cuisine, pastries and dancing. Inflatable jumpies. Raffle tickets $25 with total winnings of $9,000
TICKETS: $1 admission
CONTACT: Call 708-645-0652
WHAT: Holy Cross Parish picnic
WHEN: Noon to 9 p.m. July 17. Polish Mass begins 10:30 a.m. at The Grotto
WHERE: St. Joseph Park, 1500 N. Raynor Ave., Joliet
ETC: Pierogis, smoked Polish sausage with sauerkraut, barbecue beef, hot dogs, pizza. Gora Band plays noon to 4 p.m. Polka Generations plays from 5 to 9 p.m.
WHAT: Joliet’s 2016 Taste of Greece
WHEN: 6 to 10 p.m. July 29, 5 to 10 p.m. July 30 and noon to 8 p.m. July 31
WHERE: 3457 Black Road, Joliet
ETC: Authentic Greek food, drinks, dancing, live music
WHAT: Serb Fest
WHEN: Noon to 9 p.m. July 24
WHERE: St. Joseph Park, 1500 Raynor Ave., Joliet
ETC: Serbian sausage and bakery, roasted lamb, shish kebabs. Live Serbian music and rock music. Kids activities, Bingo