For more than 20 years, Ohio State student Athena Patitsas has participated in Columbus’ annual Greek Festival. This year, she will once again perform as a Zoee –– traditional Greek ––  folk dancer.

Athena Patitsas (right) and her sister Mauretta in their traditional Greek garments at the 2016 Greek Festival in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Courtesy of Athena Patitsas

Celebrating its 45th anniversary, this four-day festival is held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral at the corner of Goodale Boulevard and High Street from Friday to Monday.

Patitsas, a fourth-year in public affairs with a modern Greek minor, said she is excited for the 2017 celebration.

“I’ve been dancing [at the festival] since I was in kindergarten,” Patitsas said. “I still do love performing in front of people and being able to share my heritage and my roots.”

Patitsas comes from a strong Greek background with three of her grandparents born and raised in Greece. To celebrate her heritage, Patitsas will

perform about a dozen shows at the festival. The variety of traditional group dances will be executed in customary garments.

“My favorite part is always the dancing,” she said. “I love when people come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Oh my gosh, can you teach me?’”

Apart from the dancing, homemade Greek cuisines like gyros and pastitsio, a pasta and ground beef dinner dish, will be served. Plus, vendors will display and sell their Greek-inspired artwork and jewelry.

“The festival itself is a celebration of life,” said John Bizios, chairman of the Greek festival and president of the cathedral’s parish council. “We celebrate through food, music, drink and most importantly, we celebrate through dance. The dance in the Greek ethos’, it’s really an expression of how much we love life.”

Bizios has known Patitsas and her family for many years and said it has been nice to see Patitsas continually participate in the festival even as she goes through college.  

“[The festival] is just another extension where Athena stays connected and grounded to her church and her family,” he said. “She comes from a fantastic family … who loves their faith and who loves their ethnic background.”

Patitsas said the cathedral has always brought her a sense of home.  

“My church always feels like home to me,” she said. “But during the festival it’s like an extra boost of home. It’s something I can come back to every year.”