Greece Is the Word

The people who brought you democracy know how to party. First, they invite everybody. The Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale invites you to the Big, Fat Greek Festival, where you can dance to live music, meet people named Nick, and eat your way to heaven.

"The church wants to show the community what it's like to be Greek," says festival chairman Dr. Dean Cummings. Ah, but first, you look a little pale -- so eat. We suggest the dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves. Another bite -- try the tiropites, melty phyllo cheese squares, washed down with Greek wine from the tasting tent. Now toss back an ouzo, and you're ready to dance. Simply join hands with 20 of your newest friends, and they'll show you what to do.

Now that you've worked up an appetite for dinner, opt for a gyro, or pastitsio, a lasagna-like dish, or, of course, moussaka, a meat and eggplant casserole that's the national dish of Greece. Lean back with your coffee and baklava and watch the folk dancers whirl. This is how Zeus feels. The reason Greeks outlive Americans is that they have so much to live for.

Tour the church, shop for gifts, and buy a fistful of raffle tickets to win a trip to Greece. Kids make like grown-ups at these affairs, but can also assemble crafts and scale Mount Olympus, the pintsize climbing wall. Cummings says the church gives a portion of festival proceeds back to the community, so come and meet these good neighbors -- they'll show you how to be Greek for the weekend.

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Kim Toms