Last weekend, two festivals celebrated the ethnic diversity of Tulsa: Tulsa Greek Festival and Tulsa’s Scotfest. The festivals allowed community members and visitors to get an experience of the culture, food and shopping.
The Holy Trinity Orthodox Church hosted the Tulsa Greek fest, which boasts itself as Tulsa’s longest running ethnic festival. With this backing, the festival seemed like a church get-together that had opened itself up to outsiders. People did wander around in traditional Greek clothing, mostly the dancers in-between their sets. For this festival, the majority of the draw was the food and the dancing.
There were three different regions of food sold – bakery goods, entrees, street food, and of course, a beer tent. Several dancing groups performed in the entree tent. While the majority of these dancing groups were full of children, there were three groups with either teenagers, college students or adults. While the style of dancing – circle dances with occasional springing – was foreign, watching the child dancers was reminiscent of a church recital.
Because we weren’t hungry during our time at the festival, we tried only a pita bread and spanakopita at the entree tent, while watching one of the youth groups dance. Although we didn’t buy anything to coat the pita, it was a soft, warm slice that was quickly consumed. The spanakopita, a “spinach pie,” by contrast, was flaky and its pieces were fought over.
The shopping at the festival was mostly limited to either “Greek pride” items – things like bumper stickers proclaiming ethnicity or signs – or religious trinkets sold at the church adjacent, as well as some jewelry. For reasons that were not immediately clear, several goats, a miniature pony and a chicken stayed, rather harmoniously, in a cage next to the kids’ zone.
Scotfest was a much bigger endeavor, held at Tulsa River West Festival Park. This festival offered sports, shopping, food, live music and even a car show. Unlike its compatriot, this festival seemed more like a competition of local clans. Around the ring of the Highland Games and rugby area were booths of the different clans, decorated both traditionally and more modern. Almost everyone, it seemed, was wearing a kilt of some kind, although some strayed from their roots – there were military-style camo kilts.
The Highland games mimicked those held in Scotland to celebrate Celtic culture. Several “heavy weight” competitions occurred for males and females, where competitors tossed heavy weights over a bar either by hand or with a pitchfork, much like a pole vault. Piping and dancing competitions were also held.
Shopping at Scotfest provided a dizzying amount of variety. Of course, several vendors offered traditional clothing and jewelry, but cigars, Scentsy products, jerky and metal work were also on display.
Food vendors clustered near the rock music tent, from an espresso bar food truck to hand-pies to two trucks with more traditional food. The food focused on taste, rather than presentation or health; fried food and potatoes abounded. Almost every dish in one truck was served with mash (mashed potatoes) and a cabbage side dish.
We sampled the haggis and scotch eggs. Haggis – a savoury pudding containing sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion and spices – were a soft, umami slider with a texture similar to ground beef. While one in our group found the meat combination gross, as someone who doesn’t particularly like red meat, the dish was something worth coming back for. Scotch eggs – hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat and fried with a coating of breadcrumbs – made hard-boiled eggs more palatable. While the coating was greasy, it cut through the chalky, enormous yolk.
Eating in the rock tent exposed us to “Cleghorn,” a Texas Celtic rock band. One member cycled through a fiddle and bagpipes, while others were on guitars and drums. They engaged with the audience, even causing some to dance up in front. While loud, this music made me wish for a comfortable pub to sit and chat with friends.
The festivals this weekend demonstrated the diversity of Tulsans, and gave people in those communities a chance to get together and show off what distinguishes their culture.