There are so many reasons to go to the Salt Lake City Greek Festival — the music, the culture, the baklava.
But the stifatho might be one of the highlights, according to festival chairman George Karahalios.
“I don’t know if you can find that anywhere,” Karahalios said of the stifatho — a tomato-based stew made with beef, pearl onions, cloves and allspice. “Nobody makes it, because it’s such a hard and long process.”
The festival, celebrating its 46th year and running Friday through Sunday, Sept. 9-11, will also serve up keftethes (meatballs) and baked Greek chicken — two more popular food options.
There also are lots of pastries and desserts not normally found in Utah — “I would say all of them, except for baklava,” Karahalios said with a laugh. Among the rarities are amigthalota (crescent marzipan cookies), galaktoboureko (citrus-honey soaked phyllo pastry filled with custard), and melomakarona (honey-drizzled walnut spice cookies).
The event has regularly attracted about 50,000 people over the course of a weekend to Holy Trinity Cathedral, 279 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City. Last year, Karahalios said, was the first time the event was held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic — and the Friday night’s crowds were so large, he said, they ran out of food.
In its early years, the event was just a little indoor gathering they called The Bazaar, Karahalios said, where there were imports and a little bit of food. Over the years, it turned into an indoor and outdoor event, one of the largest and longest-running ethnic festivals west of the Mississippi.
“And now we have a big tent outside, where we can have a thousand people sit down at one time and eat,” he said.
Greek dancing is another big part of the festival, Karahalios said. One of the highlights is the Dionysus Dancers, the college-age dance group, which performs at different festivals around the country.
Choir performances and cathedral tours are also on the schedule.
A new feature this year, Karahalios said, is a series of lectures, presented by Utah Valley University, “The Architecture of Democracy.”
Dr. Aliki Miloti, a parishioner at Holy Trinity who teaches at Brigham Young University, will speak Friday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m. at the cathedral. His topic: “The Golden Thread: Timeless Lessons Learned from Classical Architecture.”
“It’s about how our Greek architecture influenced democracy here in America through buildings that they built,”Karahalios said. “You look at the Supreme Court, you look at our state capitals — everything is modeled after the Greek columns, the Greek architecture.”
The Salt Lake City Greek Festival runs Friday-Sunday, Sept. 9-11, at Holy Trinity Cathedral, 279 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $3, with kids 5 and under admitted free.
Other big events this weekend
The Greek Festival is just one of the many events on this busy September weekend. Here are some more events worth taking part in:
The Utah State Fair kicks off Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Utah State Fairpark, 1000 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, and running through Sunday, Sept. 18. Farm animals will be on display, along with contest entries in everything from quilting to canned vegetables, the famous butter cow sculpture, massive amounts of food, and entertainment on several stages. The midway is loaded with commercial exhibits and carnival rides and attractions. And the Days of ‘47 Arena will play host to Utah’s Own PRCA Rodeo on Sept. 10-12, and grandstand concerts from country singer Cole Swindell on Sept. 14, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham on Sept. 15, and rapper Flo Rida on Sept. 16. (The Disney Princess concert set for Sept. 13 has been canceled “due to production circumstances.”) Tickets and information are available at UtahStateFair.com.
ToshoCon, the Salt Lake County Library’s teen event to celebrate Japanese manga and anime, happens Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10, at the Viridian Event Center, 8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan. There are cosplay contests, vendors, panels, crafts and an art gallery. The event runs from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission is limited to people 12 to 19 years old. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended; go to slcolibrary.org/toshocon to reserve a spot.
The Avenues Street Fair, the neighborhood celebration of Salt Lake City’s northeast side, will run Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. This year, 2nd Avenue, from F to L streets will be blocked off for vendors, street food, and music on two stages. The traditional children’s parade starts at 9 a.m. (meet at 2nd Avenue and L Street at 8:45 a.m. to participate; all participants are invited to a free pancake breakfast after the parade, at the 20th Ward Chapel at 2nd Avenue and G Street). Admission to the fair is free. Go to avenuesstreetfair.org for more details.
SLC VegFest, the annual gathering to champion all plant-based foods, happens Saturday, Sept. 10, from noon to 8 p.m., at Library Square, 200 E. 400 South. Area restaurants and bakeries will serve up their vegan dishes, and local prepared food vendors will sell their vegan goods. An all-vegan beer garden is open to those 21 and older. Live music, and information about how to get involved with pro-animal causes are also in the mix. Admission is free. Go to slcveg.com for more information.