Seattle’s St. Demetrios Greek Festival has been an annual event in the Montlake neighborhood since 1960. Each year, the St. Demetrios church members and community put together a spectacular festival showcasing the dances, traditions, food and wine from the Greek culture. A big bang of a festival, it takes approximately one year to plan. In fact, the St. Demetrios community has already started planning next year’s event!
St. Demetrios Orthodox church was established in 1894 as a Greek-Russian church on Lakeview Way. It went through many different names and locations and as the Greek community continued to grow, the Greeks wanted to establish a church of their own. Yale Avenue North and Thomas Street (now REI) was the home of the first St. Demetrios Church and dedicated on November 20, 1921. At the time, it was the only church of Greek denomination in Washington State. The present day location on Boyer Ave was built in 1962 by Paul Thiry, one of the principal architects of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
As soon as you enter the main gates of the festival, you’re greeted by cheerful community members, the aromas of pastries, and colorful costumes of dancers preparing to perform. There are several things to do including the docent-led church tour providing a view of the beautiful sanctuary and insight into the Greek Orthodox faith and history of Orthodox Christianity.
MAKE SURE TO EAT AND DRINK!
No festival is complete without trying the food and wine. From Baklava and Moussaka to Greek coffee and beer, you’ll find something for every palate. Try the Koulourakia,a twisted butter cookie with a hint of vanilla. Served with Greek coffee, this makes a wonderful morning or afternoon snack!
St. Demetrios offers generous tastings of a wide variety of wines — all of which can be found here in Seattle. Ever tasted the Saint Barnabas Commandaria? It’s the oldest appellation in the world and it’s the communion wine of St. Demetrios. You’ll notice the brownish-gold color which is filled with aromas of chocolate and coffee with a mint aftertaste. Delicious!
For the adventurous palate try the Retsina, Greek’s most popular wine made of pine resin. Retsina has been made for at least 2,000 years. In ancient times amphora containers were used to store wine and to prevent spoiling, pine resin was used to seal the containers. The strong pine aroma permeated the wine giving it a unique, strong flavor.
A fun little chat with Michael LaMarche gave even more history to this interesting wine. According to legend, the evolution of Retsina stems from the Roman conquest of Greece. As the Romans plundered the wines of Greece, angered citizens used pine resin to deter them. The harsh flavor was definitely off putting for the Romans, but it became a Greek favorite!
NEED A LITTLE MORE?
There are several other products available for sale at the festival such as books, pendants and charms, balsamic vinegars and olive oil soaps. Tasos Manouras, owner of Ariadne Pure, imports and distributes products from Greece and Cyprus. His products can be found at DeLaurentis at Pike Place Market, Red Apple supermarkets, and Whole Foods.
The festival is free to the public and the cost of food is minimal. Get yourself some tokens to make your way around the food vendors. There’s plenty of seating around the vicinity with tents separating the Beer Garden, coffee and pastries, and even a section for youth!
Music, dancing, food and culture. There’s no doubt the St. Demetrios Greek community is strong and proud with so much to share to the Seattle residents! We’re certainly lucky to have them and what a joy to see all the smiling faces and beautiful culture. This is a must visit activity during the fall and while this year’s event was In October, the event usually takes place in September. Mark your calendars, it’ll be a great time!