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Feature Stories

Greek Festival Has Successful Weekend

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 18
9/6/2013


By Carin Merritt

A defining part of Long Beach is its affluent diversity of culture and its on-going celebrations of it. Among various influences, the Greek culture has left a positive impact on the city for years.

Now, 64 years after the very first Greek cultural event showcased, Long Beach has opened the doors to a cultural experience, yet again, for the longest running Greek Festival in California’s history.

Labor Day weekend, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Greek Orthodox Church hosted the Long Beach Greek Festival, inundating guests with the sounds of live, energetic folk music, the smells of home-made traditional Greek dishes, and the sights of local shopping and Greek crafts available for purchase.

Even under the extreme heat hitting Southern California this past week, the Greek Orthodox Church and its volunteers forged ahead and transformed Colorado St. August 31 and Sept. 1st and 2nd into a laid-back, blue and white themed Greek Isle inspired arena.

The event was well put-together and made easily accessible for locals and tourists alike. Free shuttles were provided from Cal State Long Beach to the event so attendees did not have to worry about parking. The entrance fee was only $3 per person.

Upon entering, energetic staff manned booths upon booths of fresh, warm and savory dishes including calamari, Souvlaki and gyros with tzaziki sauce. Beer and wine was provided as well as the licorice flavored liqueur, Ouzo. The event was family friendly, including carnival rides as an activity.

“This is one of my favorite festivals to attend every year,” said one local. “There’s so much great food to try and the vibe is just happy and fun. Plus, the event supports our community and everyone of all ages.”

Some of these community members exhibiting positive roles are the Maids of Athena, a junior order of AHEPA. According to the festival newspaper, “The Maids of Athena is dedicated to promoting Hellenism by strengthening the Greek culture through educational and artistic activities. We take great pride in our sponsorship of philanthropic activities, leadership conferences, scholarship programs, travel opportunities, the arts, athletic tournaments and social functions.”

These social functions include the annual Long Beach Greek Festival. Dancers from the Cultural Arts and Dance School, encompassing seven dance groups, performed for the crowd with participants ranging from age four to 18.

The event also showcased travel videos, church tours, music by the Olympians, cooking demonstrations and dance lessons. An indoor dining room was provided as an option -buffet style- including ‘ala carte’ items or combination dinners. The Hercules Platter, a family style deal, included a ¼ roasted chicken, two pieces of roast lamb, rice, briami, Greek peas, tiropita, spanakopita, dolmades, small Greek dinner salad and bread rolls.

This is a momentous year for the church, after years of waiting for enough fundraiser and donation money, construction was completed for the third and final building of the Assumption Church Complex on Colorado Street. This is the first year the festival is being held, under the guidance of Father Kanakis and Festival Chairman, Dino Syrengelas, after the completion of this project.

For more information on the Assumption of the Blessed Mary Greek Orthodox Church and the Long Beach Greek festival, visit lbgreekfest.org or call (562) 494-8929.

carin@longbeachcomber.com