Bring your appetite and a taste for cultural exploration to the 49th annual Greek Food Festival this weekend.
The event at Modesto’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church runs Saturday and Sunday. Festivalgoers can enjoy a Greek meal, purchase arts and crafts, browse delicacies, and watch traditional dances and entertainment.
The family-friendly event, which attracts about 9,000 people each year, is a communal effort of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church members. The 350-family congregation bands together to organize, cook, bake, entertain, volunteer and do even more for the festival.
“The whole church is involved. We’ve had the ladies here this whole week and baking all the pastries from scratch. The men came in last night to marinate the chicken,” Irene Hasapopoulos-Jaureguy, this year’s chairwoman, said Thursday. “We have people coming in today wanting to buy pastries because we sell out every year.”
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The festival started in 1966, and the price of admission gets attendees a meal complete with baked herb chicken, Greek salad, vegetables, rice pilaf, ring bread and baklava for dessert. Guests can check an outdoor coffeehouse, munch on delicacies and see dancers in traditional costumes.
The Greek band Helios will perform traditional music, and more than 60 dancers from the church – from seasoned adults to the poulakia (little ones) – will show their skills throughout the event.
Visitors also can tour the Byzantine-style Orthodox Church and see its frescoes on the ceilings and walls.
“This is an outreach to understand who the Greeks are culturally and today who we are as a church,” Hasapopoulos-Jaureguy said. “We’re a historic church. We want people to enjoy our culture and space and take away a little bit of Greece with them.”
An outdoor marketplace offers shopping for imported jewelry, clothing, crafts and deli items. Along with the well-known favorite baklava, the bakery will sell loukoumades (honey doughnuts), paximadia and koulourakia (dipping cookies similar to biscotti), melomakarona (honey cookies), kourabiedes (butter cookies with white powder) and diples (honey rolls).
For those who cannot stay, takeout meals are available at a drive-up window. Free shuttles to the church will be available at the Burlington Coat Factory parking lot.