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Buffalo GreekFest ushers in summer festival season with plenty of food, music and dancing

All you had to do this weekend was be in the vicinity of Delaware Avenue and Utica Street and hear the music on the breeze and you knew the summer festival season has begun in Buffalo.

It is a rite of summer - the Buffalo GreekFest. Past Chair and this year's Assistant Chair Jeff Gianiodis said he has been there for nearly all 41 of them, since his father helped start the cultural fundraiser.

He said the festival is the fiscal base for the church.
            
"It probably produces a third of our working budget and now with the new church out in Lancaster, our new Lancaster Suburban Presence we call it, we're going to need the festival more than ever," Gianiodis said. "There's no plans right now to move it out there. We're still keeping it at Delaware and Utica. So, for the short term, we're going to keep it here."

The Hellenic Orthodox Church has been the anchor of the Greek community for generations and a place that draws migrants to Buffalo.

"The immigrants come in. We still get a number of immigrants, especially at UB," said Gianiodis. "We have a lot of professors and a lot of students that go to UB. So we get a lot of the immigrants still coming from Greece and, because we are the only Orthodox, Greek Orthodox church in the area, they know that they come from Greece, they know they're going to get Greek language and someone to talk to and their religious faith."

Gianiodis said the congregation has figured out how to do the event and break in the new generations to learn fest ways.

"It's not so much the kids moving out, it's the experienced adults that we draw on," he said. "I was 12 when we the first one happened and my dad was chairman. He's no longer with us. It is very few of the original driving force that started this festival still around. We do it and I do it in their names. They're looking down and making sure that we doing it right and we can't do it wrong."

Gianiodis said people come in who have moved away and new family members show up, knowing how important to the Greek community the event is in reinforcing their cultural history, financially supporting the church and its new church out in Lancaster and showing non-Greeks the culture, food, music, dancing, their church and maybe a little ouzo.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.