During the second week of September, Charlotte’s historic Dilworth neighborhood pulses with bass and whirls with the sound of clarinets. Applause mingles among the towering oaks, and the cheers of a nearby crowd dance across the front porches of Cape Cod-style homes.
The sounds flow outward from a tent behind Charlotte’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, where a bandleader occasionally interrupts a Balkan polka to shout into his microphone.
“And now it’s your turn to dance in a circle,” he says. “There’s no charge. Just enjoy! Welcome to Yiasou Greek Festival.”
The Yiasou Greek Festival has been a Charlotte staple since 1978 when it began as a small, three-day event designed to introduce the culture of Charlotte’s Greek community to the rest of the city.
Today, the smell of loukoumades (warm, honey-dipped Greek doughnuts) lingers in the air. People of all ages stand in line to get ice cream topped with baklava and trays of Greek pastries piled with everything from koularakia (a sweet, braided Easter cookie) to kourambiethes (a crunchy, round cookie coated in powdered sugar).
Traditional Greek music plays as families eat and drink.
Church youth group members dressed in traditional Greek attire — black, newsboy caps and printed head scarves — braid their arms together and bound around the stage, stepping forward and back in rhythm with the music.
For those looking for more than just food, music, and dancing, there are history lessons led by church members in Spartan costumes, outdoor vendors selling Greek jewelry, and priests explaining the history of the Eastern Orthodox tradition inside the Byzantine-style church.
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
600 East Boulevard
Charlotte, N.C. 28203