Cathy Sanders is a grape stomper from way back.
The Punta Gorda Realtor will kick off her flip-flops and jump in the vat at a moment’s notice. Grape stomping is part of the fun of Greek Fest, she says, and Cathy likes nothing better than having a good time in a family atmosphere.
The Greek Fest will be celebrating its 26th year Feb. 15-17 on the grounds of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 2411 Rampart Blvd. in Port Charlotte. The festival will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. A $3 donation covers the entire weekend.
“When we started grape stomping,” Sanders said, “it was just kind of this fun idea. We roll out this box. The guys dance around the box and throw the grapes in. Then the girls go in and mosh the grapes. They step on the grapes while they’re dancing. We get everyone in audience involved.
“People line up to have the opportunity to step on grapes.”
The festival will feature authentic Greek food and pastry, church tours, and a live Greek band. The Pride of Greece Dancers will perform, and Greek dancing lessons are scheduled. And, of course, the interactive exhibit — grape stomping.
“There’s plenty of things to do,” said Sanders, who has been a festival organizer since the beginning. “We want to share our culture — the dancing, the costumes, the music, the pastries. There’s everything from a Greek grocery store that will have olive oils to jewelry vendors.”
When the festival first started, “we used to take Greek food down to the newspaper, and you would find people there, and they would write it up,” Sanders recalled.
That method still works like a charm.
Some things have changed since then. The festival is bigger, broader, with some new vendors. Some things have remained the same. It all about It’s still all about Greek culture — food and dancing and traditional costumes. Volunteers — about 100 —still put it on. They make the food — lamb shank, baklava, dolmadakia, saganaki, pastries. They set up the tables and chairs. Their kids — from youngsters to college age — do the dancing and teach the steps.
“It is a lot of work,” Sanders said. “But it brings everyone together. We all help. We all have fun.”
It is an event whose tasks are handed down within families.
“My children used to dance when they were 5, 6 years old,” Sanders said. “Even after college, they would come back and would work in the bars. Now they have kids. My 2-1/2-year-old grandson probably will be dancing.”
From the stomping on grapes to the chomping on food, Sanders says, the festival offers family fun.
“Anyone who comes gets to be Greek for a day,” she said.