The initial outlook wasn’t good for the Estia Greek Festival. There was no denying it, when I arrived at 10.30am, the weather was less than ideal. One of the organisers (who had pulled an all-nighter getting everything ready) told me the rain had started at about 7.00am and hadn’t let up since.

Estia Greek Festival - Rain in Hobart

Estia Greek Festival: North Hobart (photo by Cassandra Wunsch)

Hobart: Estia Greek Festival

by Cassandra Wunsch

Even with the lacklustre weather, organisers, food vendors and staff all seemed in high spirits. A kind gentleman insisted that at the Estia Greek Festival I should be drinking ouzo, not lemonade. He even offered to dilute it down for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d had a terrible experience on the stuff as a young woman (entirely the fault of my over indulgence rather than any fault of the drink) and am now quite put off by the smell. Luckily I’m pregnant, so I had a graceful exit.

Quite often, I find “organisation” gatherings to be what I call triple C: cool, calm, and corporate. This wasn’t like that. As a girl of proud Welsh descent I was a regular at all the Celtic festivals where decorum is a dirty word and a wee dram is breakfast. I felt quite at home here! Everyone was jovial, friendly and boisterous, calling to each other through the rain; a combination of jokes and friendly insults. The one stand-out comment that was nearly my undoing? “I need more marinated octopus!” I’m a food wuss when it comes to things that still have eyes!

Estia Greek Festival - Greek Community Flags

Greek and Australian flags (photo by Cassandra Wunsch)

The Estia Greek Festival was far from being an exclusive or insular occasion; there was a welcoming and open quality about the people. They were happy to walk anyone through the nuances of the food, the dancing or the culture. They were there to share themselves, and they did so with good humour and fun.

Traditional Greek Dancing

Though the rain forced the dancing children indoors, it didn’t slow anyone down. Dressed traditionally and performing traditional dances (with just a little assistance from an adult for the littlies), they didn’t seem to mind being inside.

For the last number, the MC invited the audience onto the dance floor to join in, and a lot of them did. There was a great deal of laughing and bouncing out of time, but neither the children nor the impromptu participants seemed to care or even notice.

Estia Greek Festival - Tasmanian Greek Community

Hellenic-Australian culture (photo by Cassandra Wunsch)

Hellenic School: Greek Food

After the dancing, a teacher from the Hellenic School gave the crowd a demonstration of making traditional Tzatziki. She spoke of inherent problems, like calling her grandmother in Greece to ask for recipes. Metric wasn’t the order of the day. Sugar for example was measured by ‘feta glass’. She confessed feta hadn’t been sold in those glasses since the 1950s! The final advice was just to wing it.

By that time it was almost 1.00pm, the skies had cleared and the crowd outside was bustling between stalls selling various foods and drinks.

Estia Greek Festival - Crowds

Estia Greek Festival: North Hobart (photo by Cassandra Wunsch)

With the sun came the kids! Denied their earlier street performance, they came out again to give an encore in the sunshine.

Estia Greek Festival: Fun Tasmanian Family Event

All in all it was a great experience and I’m glad I toughed out the initial gloomy weather. It was well worth the effort. Once the sun came back out and people started packing in, the Estia Greek Festival proved to be a great family event. Children were stomping in puddles and a couple of lads wore Greek flag capes.

I’d like to thank everyone who pointed me in the right direction and was so nice to me while I wandered around (quite often managing to put myself perfectly in the way while trying to be unobtrusive).

The Estia Greek Festival is held annually in autumn, under the auspices of the Greek Community of Tasmania. They are based at Hellenic House in North Hobart.  2012 festivities continue until 17 March (see the calendar for event dates).

Cassandra Wunsch is a third-year journalism student at Open Universities Australia. She lives in Hobart with her husband Florian and daughter Taliesin, and would like to continue to write full-time when she graduates. Her personal blog is www.10percentinspired.com

Map: Hellenic House, North Hobart…

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