Wednesday, June 22, 2011

26th Annual Greek Fest, June 9-12, 2011

I'm a bit late in posting this, since I was away for nearly a week in Atlanta, Georgia, but a couple of weeks ago one of Atlantic Canada's largest annual festivals geared up for its 26th year.

The Halifax Greek Festival was inspired by tales of similar events held in the US, and plans were laid over a quarter century ago for the first Greek Summer Festival in 1986. The organizing committee grossly underestimated how popular that first festival would be, and as the line ups grew, the food quickly ran out.

The festival soon grew so large that it had to be moved outside to a large tent in the parking lot. And though it has evolved, the festival still holds true to its roots even today, as an opportunity to share with Haligonians the cultural and historical roots of the Nova Scotia Greek community, as well as the culinary specialities that make Greek food lovers and EP Daves everywhere say "opa!"

Long time readers may feel like they are experiencing a case of deja vu, but there's a good reason for that. Last year's Greek Fest was the first ever EP Dave's Terra Nova post. That's right, EPTN is officially a full year old (insert applause here). Luckily for me the festival is roughly the same as it was last year (read: awesome), so I can more or less just recycle most of what I wrote the last time... but I won't.

When I was going to all of the festivals last year, I can remember trying to experience a little bit of everything offered at each festival so that I could present my report afterwards. This year around, with most of the festivals being familiar to me and my readers, I will concentrate more fully on having a full and great personal experience to share, that will compliment and supplement the posts I made last year.

To start this year's festival season off right, I decided to go all out on the food. Last year I used to spread my budget too thin, and this would end up leaving me with an unsatisfying experience. This time I went to the opposite extreme and ate way too much. I can now say with certainty that despite my love of Greek food, there is a limit to how much one person can eat in one day. One man does not need to eat lemon roasted potatoes, moussaka, pastichio. spanakopita, tiropita, dolmades, a Greek salad, and then have a donair. That said, everyone should want to find out for him-/herself.

(Catering - Greek Fest style. These hard working volunteers cooked through the night to make sure there was enough food for everyone.)

(It's tough to see from this picture, but by "everyone" I do mean just about everyone in Halifax. This particular lineup snaked all the way to the back of the hall, and then curled around to the entrance.)

(Some more beautiful volunteers cooking up some pork souvlaki kebabs.)

(If you couldn't make it the one minute walk from the hall to the kebab/donair pit, there was a roasting lamb station along the way to tide you over. Old man getting smoked out not included in the price though.)

Since this year my motto seems to be "in for a penny, in for a pound," I checked out the souvenir tents too. This volunteer put on a master course in salesmanship, and I ended up walking away not-unhappy with my new komboloi, or "worry beads."

Draped over the hand, between the first and middle fingers, the user can flip the hanging beads over the top finger and produce a satisfying clanking sound when the flipped beads strike the hanging beads on the other side. Historically komboloi were quite a popular form of stress relief, and are still often used by smokers looking to quit. I must say, once I learned to flip the beads and reset my fingers smoothly, the repetitive motion and noise I was able to produce became quite addicting.

Of course the ever popular ethnic dancers were back again, and this time I came early enough to see the young children dancing too.

(Everyone say, "opa!")

This year I decided to absorb even more of the experience than last year, and so I ventured in to the St. George's Greek Orthodox Church. I was not quite prepared for what I saw though, and the following sight blew me away.

(This picture doesn't do it justice, but the the inside of the St. Goerge's Greek Orthodox Church is covered in paintings from floor to ceiling, and all around, and on top of that - not the ceiling, I meant additionally - there are the myriad traditional ornaments located around the church that probably have some traditional significance of which I am not aware.)

I spent about forty minutes on the upper balcony having a Biblical debate/discussion with one of the priests, as well as learning about the main differences between the Greek Orthodox Church and the other "90 000 heresies" (i.e., the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, and their off-shoots.)

(This photo is for EP Dan. The "hit the goalie" game was back, and the net too - to catch the ball if you miss.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

HRM Bike Week 2011, Part 3: Pancake Breakfast and Bill 93 Proclamation

On the morning of Wednesday, June 1, I woke up and geared up early in the morning to cycle across the Macdonald Bridge for a free pancake breakfast. It won't take regular readers long to figure out that EP Dave loves free food, and will do just about anything to get it. However, if I can get free food at an event that promotes cycling I will ride my bicycle across the ocean to get it (literally in this case).

(Shivering in the cold since 6:30 am - it was about 8:40 am when this picture was taken - these three HRM heroes served pancakes, fruit salad, and juice to passing cyclists, and seconds of it to me.)

While a free pancake breakfast for cyclists is reason enough to get up early and leave the house, it wasn't the only cycling related event happening on this day. Teams of relays from different corners of Nova Scotia had been cycling for ten days across the province, and would be converging on the capital, Halifax, at 1:00 pm to deliver a copy of a historic bill to the Legislature that would become an official law on this day.

The bill in question, Bill 93 (the one meter law), requires all motor vehicles to give a one-metre birth to cyclists when passing (drivers can move into the oncoming traffic lane when it is safe to do so). The law also makes it punishable by law to drive or park in a bicycle lane too - that means you taxi cab drivers. Halifax still has a long way to go to reach the level of cities like Victoria, Bike Mecca of Canada, or even Ottawa, but this law is a good first step, and is the first of its kind in Canada.

Bill 93 is largely the result of intense lobbying by the Halifax Cycling Coalition (HCC). The HCC was formed in 2007 after the death of 19 year old Michael Brooker. Brooker was cycling downtown in the morning, when he was struck by a transport truck and killed.