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The Saints Kosmas and Damianos Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester will be open for tours during Greek Fest.

If you're just going to Rochester's Greek Fest this weekend for the gyros, baklava and Greek dancers, you're missing one of the city's architectural wonders.

Saints Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church, where the festival is held, is open for tours during the festival.

"I say with pride it's a beautiful church," said Ari Kolas, chairman of the festival. "It's the most Byzantine-style church in the Upper Midwest. We have the old-school architecture based on churches from 100 A.D."

The doors of the church are open during the festival, so visitors can step inside and view the icons and frescoes that decorate the domed sanctuary. At certain times, the Rev. Mark Munoz gives a talk about the church to guests.

"It's not preachy, he's not evangelizing," Kolas said. "It's more from a historic perspective."

The congregation was founded in 1947, with the first building constructed in 1954. The Greek Fest was started in 1963. The present church building was dedicated in 2004.

So much for the history, now for the food. As usual, Greek Fest volunteers have been spending the past week baking and preparing the tasty treats and main dishes; the  Greek chicken and souvlakia, the homemade tzatziki, the karidopita, and the super-rich kokakia.

Among new offerings this year is one dish that translates as "flaming cheese." Kolas described it as egg and cheese and a little butter, heated on the grill, with brandy poured over it, and then set aflame. The flame is doused with lemon juice.

"It's fun to watch," Kolas said. And no doubt fun to eat.

Some recipes were updated and changed, including the cheese pie and spinach pie. "We had a big debate at committee meetings," Kolas said. There was plenty of taste-testing to get just the right size and flavor. "We all sacrifice for the good of our customers," Kolas said.

Some sacrifice, eh?

The popular Greek dancers will be back again this year, and there is an expanded kids area with special activities on Saturday.

The festival draws up to 5,000 people, and proceeds help fund church activities, including three guest houses available free of charge to Mayo Clinic patients. Part of the proceeds also go to local organizations, including the Women's Shelter, Dorothy Day House and Ronald McDonald House.

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Life Reporter

Tom covers primarily arts and entertainment for the Post Bulletin and 507 Magazine. He also often writes feature stories about local history. He is a native of Milwaukee, WI, and enjoys reading and traveling.