The Greek Orthodox Church was all important to our early Greeks who emigrated from their homeland in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s because of crop failures, political instability and poverty. The Church strengthened the bonds between and among these pioneers. The Church always reached out to those early immigrants, whether settled in Denver, or in Colorado mountain towns, working as coal miners, ranchers or railroad employees.. Our Greek Orthodox faith and culture bound our forbearers. The Greek community picnics and social gatherings gave them a sense of collective familiarity and comfort.
Many men returned to their homeland to marry and bring young wives to America to create their own families in America. Keeping their Greek Orthodox faith and establishing a Church in Denver sustained these forebears, as it had so richly done for them in Greece.
Today, the Denver Greek Orthodox Metropolis Cathedral has more than 800 Greek Orthodox families in the Denver metropolitan area. We celebrated our Church’s 100th anniversary in 2006, and this year celebrate the 50th Anniversary of bringing the Greek culture to the Denver community through our annual Greek Festivals.
The first Greek Bazaar in Denver was sponsored by The Reverend Father George Neofotistos and the Ladies Philoptochos Society in October, 1963 as a fundraiser for the Church. Greek Bazaars were held every year until 1970. The Greek Bazaars sold handmade/handcrafted items, such as embroidered pillowcases and tea towels, flower arrangements, aprons, ladies’ glove folders and Christmas ornaments. There also were canned Greek food items, homemade Greek pastries and bread, as well as Greek food, such as dolmades, tiropites, koulourakia and homemade bread. The first year’s proceeds provided $10,000 for the operation of the Church.
The spirit and pride in Church and community was unmistakable in those early years. The broad smiles of our Greek immigrants and their first and second generation children and grandchildren are easily remembered as they enthusiastically answered questions about how they made the craft items or detailed the ingredients in dolmades or baklava.
In 1973, the first Greek Market Place, or Agora, debuted and was celebrated in the parking lot of the Greek Orthodox Church on East Alameda Avenue. Mr. Phil Cavos and Mr. James Peros of the Denver Greek community, along with The Reverend Father George Neofostistos, envisioned an outdoor summer event for the Greek Market Place; different than the pre-holiday Greek Bazaars of the past. The newly created event, inspired by the annual Santa Fe, New Mexico festivals, featured Greek culture, food, entertainment and jewelry made in Greece. Held annually until 1988, The Greek Market Place represented the growing diversity of our community and fraternal Greek American organizations. The event rapidly attracted a large summer crowd, and subsequently moved to the back of our Church property with twenty-nine booths, each featuring different Greek foods, pastries, spirits, Greek coffee and goods. The Greek Market Place entertained the growing crowds with our children dressed in Greek costumes dancing for the public and musicians playing the bouzouki and lyra.
Large investments were made by Mr. George Pappas, Mr. George Apostolakis, Dr. Dan Dracon, Mr. Pete Michas and Mr. Pete Contos of our Denver Greek community. With their financial support, and the uncountable hours spent planning and organizing, the first Greek Market Place took place. The work included transforming old fireworks stands into booths, painting, creating signage and revising traditional Greek recipes for thousands of people. We created a festive and uniquely fun cultural and food venue for our Greek community and for the City of Denver. The Greek Market Place name changed to The Denver Greek Festival in 1988.
Today, the Denver Greek Festival continues to be a huge cultural summer event and now respectfully gives back to the Denver community that helped make past Church events successful. The Denver Greek Festival donates funds to many community organizations each year, including The Gathering Place and Bonfils Blood Bank. We proudly share our Greek culture, faith, foods, traditional drinks, dances, handcrafts, and kefi with all who join us. Come and immerse yourself in our Greek culture!