Ethnic festivals recreate native lands with dance, stories, food, music

Scenes from Asia Fest on Saturday at the Mercato in North Naples. The Naples Asian Professionals Association, Inc., along with Mercato and AZN Restaurant hosted the 7th annual Asia Fest to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

Scenes from Asia Fest on Saturday at the Mercato in North Naples. The Naples Asian Professionals Association, Inc., along with Mercato and AZN Restaurant hosted the 7th annual Asia Fest to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Lexey Swall/Staff

— With all the many things Naples offers, particularly during the season, now Naples offers something else — a taste of your native land. Everyone here is from somewhere else at some point, and some of those "somewhere elses" are holding events to celebrate their heritage.It may be your old country, your ancestors' old country — or a place you've never been, but just sounds interesting. The next few weekends, you have a little United Nations of ethnic festivals to choose from, girdling the globe to bring the culture, cuisine and performances of far-off lands to a venue in Naples.

Saturday, Feb. 4, put on your lederhosen and head for the Naples German Fest, or span an entire continent at Asia Fest — or both. And then rest up for two more festivals, the Greek Fest Feb. 10-12 and the St. Demetrius Orthodox Ethnic Food Festival Feb. 18 and 19.

German Fest

Naples German Fest

Where:Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1955 Curling Ave., Naples

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $3–$7

More Information: 239-597-4091

The Fifth Annual Naples German Festival promises "a full day of fun," with gemütlichkeit (good times) for all. Sponsored by Our Savior Lutheran Church, the festival runs from 11 a.m. till 6 in the evening on Saturday, Feb.4, at the church, just south of Sam's Club off Airport-Pulling Road.

Music will be provided by the Hafenkapelle Orchestra of Cape Coral, a roughly 18-piece traditional German oompah band with plenty of brass, and even several of the enormous 10-foot-long Alpenhorns that might bring to mind a Ricola commercial.

"You can't get much more German than us," said bandleader Jim Walker. The Hafenkapelle Orchestra's selections include such traditional German fare "Herr Schmerz Polka", "Schwarzwald Marie" and "Jetzt Ist Zeit Fur Die Polka." The band anchors the massive Oktoberfest celebration each year in Cape Coral.

Also from Cape Coral, Peter & Edith will perform German songs, and Deborah Misener-Jones will bring a note of the Alps with a demonstration of yodeling. The event is family-oriented, and there are many kids' activities, including the cupcake race, giant slide, Day-Glo hair spray and face painting.

But it is a German festival, so, of course, there is beer — German beer — and also German wine, to go with a selection of authentic German food including bratwurst, knackwurst, beef rouladen, kassler rippchen, sauerkraut and German potato salads, plus the renowned German pastries.

Asia Fest

Asia Fest

Where: The Mercato, 9118 Strada Place, Naples

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $5 (kids under 12 free)

Website: www.facebook.com/asiafestnaples

While you're in North Naples, stop in at Mercato and celebrate the Year of the Dragon at Asia Fest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb.4. This event brings together Japanese taiko drummers, Filipino and Korean dance troupes, Chinese martial arts and, appropriately, the Dragon Dance.

"This is a culturally different experience that's a lot of fun," said festival coordinator Judy Wright, who described herself as "what's called ABC — that's American-born Chinese." She is a member of the Naples Asian Professionals Association, sponsors of the event.

Entertainment literally kicks off the festivities with a demonstration of tai chi by Hiep Trinh, followed by the John Wai Kung Fu Academy's Dragon Performance. More martial arts exhibitions come from the ATA Black Belt Academy. Then, the Fushu Daiko Taiko Drum Group will take drumming to a new level of intensity.

Traditional Asian dances highlight additional Asian cultures, courtesy of the Philippine Performing Arts Company and the Korean School of Venice.

Cuisine available to sample runs the gamut from the many varieties of Chinese, to Japanese sushi, with Indian, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian and "fusion" cooking, all together in one spot. Linh Bui, ABC-7 anchorwoman, will emcee.

Greek Fest

Greek Fest

Where: St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, 7100 Airport-Pulling Road. N., Naples

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11. Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12

Admission: $4 (kids under 12 free) Free admission Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Something else: Free parking and shuttle service

More Information: 239-591-3430, www.stkatherine.net

Next weekend, it's all Greek. St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church will hold its 2012 Greek Fest, from Friday through Sunday, Feb. 10, 11, and 12. So much for "never on Sunday."

The festival, at St. Katherine's, on Airport-Pulling Road across from the Collier library headquarters on Orange Blossom Drive, offers free parking and shuttle bus, dancers, live Greek music and that double treat — both healthy and tasty — Mediterranean food.

Traditional Greek dances from many different parts of the mainland and islands will be performed by the Levandia dancers, a group of young people, broken up into three different age groups. They will perform Friday evening and four times a day on Saturday and Sunday.

"Our kids have been practicing for months, and we're debuting new costumes — Cypriot outfits from Cyprus," said Persephone Johnson, director of Levandia. Dances the troupes will perform include the kalamatiano, the pentozali, the issos, and the tsamiko, a traditional boys' dance.

Music will come from the Levendes Band, featuring that traditional Greek instrument, the bazouki. Greek food specialties include souvlaki, grilled lamb and pork on a skewer; spanakopita, a spinach pastry, and tiropeta — the same thing, only with cheese.

The Greek Fest also offers you the chance to win a 2012 Cadillac CTS, for a $50 raffle ticket.

"We've been doing this about 20 years," said festival co-chair Linda Hatzis. "In three days, we get 10,000 to 15,000 people."

St. Demetrius Ethnic Food Festival

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Ethnic Food Festival

Where: St. Demetrius Orthodox Church, 140 Price St., Naples

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 18 and 19

More Information: 239-775-8998, stdemetriusnaples.org

But wait, there's more! The weekend of Feb. 18 and 19, St. Demetrius Orthodox Church holds its own Ethnic Food Festival, covering a wide swath of Eastern Europe. This event, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the church on Price Street, just west of U.S. 41 and Collier Boulevard, promises Russian, Romanian, Polish and Greek foods, as well as sweet and savory pastries, beverages, a cash raffle and a white elephant sale.

Look for your favorites here: holupki — stuffed cabbage — and kielbasa with sauerkraut, Polish pierogi and Russian latkes as well as other specialty dishes.

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