Salt Lake’s Annual Greek Festival Canceled Due To COVID-19 Pandemic
SALT LAKE CITY — One of Salt Lake City’s longest running and most popular cultural events has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual Greek Festival is usually a huge event, and this was going to be the biggest yet as the festival was celebrating its 45th anniversary.
The event is held the weekend after Labor Day, but preparations to welcome the tens of thousands of visitors start long before.
The now iconic white tent would be set up, but the pandemic has changed all of that.
Every summer, downtown comes to life with the savory aroma, music, and community of its Greek Festival.
This year marks the festival’s 45th anniversary, a milestone made memorable because of the silence outside the Holy Trinity Church.
“It was a very painful decision that we pondered for many months,” said Father George Nikas of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
Father Nikas said this is the first time since its debut in 1976 that the festival has been canceled.
“We have been asked, in a way, not to live to the fullest because of COVID restrictions, and we are not able to share that with people this year,” he said.
It’s a loss, not just for the community, but for the church as the festival is their primary fundraiser. The money they raise goes to support the local parish and youth programs.
“Above all, it was the health and wellbeing of everyone,” said Father Nikas.
George Karahalios, Parish Counsel president of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, has been participating in the event as a dancer since he was in high school.
He says by now, the heart of the festival — its kitchen — would be bustling with hundreds of volunteers.
“This is really heartbreaking, it’s devastating because this is how the Greek community gives back,” said Karahalios.
The cooking usually starts weeks in advance.
The delicious pastries guests look forward to are the secret recipes of the parish’s best cooks.
“The majority of our parishioners that do the preparation are the older ladies part of the philoptochos society, and our biggest concern was — how do we keep them social distanced in the middle of the pandemic? Karahalios said. “It would be almost impossible to do that.”
And while the festival will be absent next weekend, Father George said there’s a silver lining in realizing that we’re all in this together.
“It’s heartwarming to know that others feel our pain because they won’t be able to attend,” he said.
But Father Nikas said they haven’t quite given up. They are looking at smaller possibilities like a drive-thru later in the year. In the meantime, they are accepting donations to support activities like their youth program.
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