By Patty Talahongva
When the 55th-annual Greek Festival opens on Oct. 9, you can bet North Central resident Pete Choukalas and his family will be there volunteering, just as they have for the past 22 years. It’s the Valley’s longest running Greek festival and it’s held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 1973 E. Maryland Ave., for three days each year.
The festival features all things Greek such as art and jewelry, a village market, Greek beer and wine, tours of the Hellenic Museum of Phoenix, traditional Greek dance performances and music, Cathedral tours, and rides and activities for children.
“Our family has been involved for more than 20 years, ranging from my mom, who also lives in North Central Phoenix, to our three young children (Ryan, 7, Jack, 5, and Katie, 3) who practice and perform with the youth Greek folk dance groups,” explains Choukalas.
He says his parents raised he and his siblings to be active in their community. “My parents have instilled that in us. The best part of volunteering is I’m giving back to a cause that is passionate to me. It brings people together.”
So Choukalas, along with his wife, Kim, and his mother, Athena Choukalas, will be joined by other family members who come from Glendale to volunteer. That group includes his sister Kathy Tropea and her family: husband, Thad, and their three kids, Roni, Dominc and Nathaniel. His older sister Ginny and her husband Ron Kidd also volunteer.
“We have a great time doing it and it’s a great fundraiser for our church,” says Choukalas. “We have been attending Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Maryland since 1973.”
In all those years Choukalas figures the family has logged more than 500 hours of volunteering. This also includes work that goes on year-round. Choukalas has served on the Parish Council as the treasurer. “So my duties have been more on the financial end of the festival,” he points out. But he’s no stranger to “other duties as assigned.”
“For many years I worked the food lines whether serving or moving food, as well as set up and take down of the event,” he says. “I’ll slip in wherever someone needs help.” He’s also designed the marketing materials for the event.
Choukalas says everyone has the ability to do something and contribute to the community. “It doesn’t take much time and the power to give back and make a difference is inspiring.”
It’s not all work and no play for the Choukalas family at the Greek Festival. They, too, like to enjoy the event, including the food that was made in family members’ kitchens.
The Greek Festival runs Oct. 9-11. Tickets are $3 and children 11 and younger get in free. Seniors 60 and older are admitted free on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pets are not allowed, only service dogs. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit www.phoenixgreekfestival.org, call 602-264-2791, or follow them on Facebook.