Delicious Greek and Middle Eastern refreshments, traditional Greek dances and a variety of booths brought out quite a few people to St. George Orthodox Church, where the 15th annual Greek and Middle Eastern Festival was held, bringing the community together for a taste of Greek culture.
The festival has been seeing a bigger turnout in recent years, since they have established free admission for the festival, so guests from all over could attend and be a part of this celebration.
The booths within the festival included refreshments, a henna tattoo booth, face painting, clothing, jewelry stands, Kona snow cones and crafts tables, as well as myriad authentic Greek food for guests to try.
People could purchase a variety of pastries and food products from the Middle East, such as grape leaves, date cookies, twists and tahini. A hookah lounge and smoking area were also provided in the corner of the festival grounds.
“We receive our products from Greece and the Middle East and we like to share them with the community,” said Jamil Tams, the runner of the pastries booth and a booth runner for the festival of 11 years. “And our funds from selling the products go to the church, as we know of the expenses they undergo and it’s an important part of our culture. It’s an incredibly important part of bringing together people for something like this.”
Music also played an important role throughout the event and was played during the entire event.
At 1, 3, and 5 p.m., the performance group Dapke came out onto the platform in the middle of the festival area to perform traditional Greek dances. And in between, attendees were welcome to dance upon the platform themselves, which brought together many people, many of whom were excited to dance.
Attendees were also welcome to walk inside the church and explore it. Father Nektarios, a priest for the church, introduced them to the inside and explained the significance of the monuments within and answered questions about the Greek Orthodox Church.
Father Nektarios also walked around the event, greeting guests. He said he wanted to connect with many different people in the community and to show the importance of connection in both spirit and culture.
“One of the strongest values of this area is peace on earth,” he said. “And with this festival, when we bring people together to celebrate culture and to talk with each other, we slowly help that come about.”
The booths and the products provided more than simply aesthetics or things for people to purchase, they hold significance to each of the people creating them and their culture. “This is also an opportunity for independent businesses to promote themselves, but without competition,” said Joy Carter, representative for Agnes & Dora, a clothing company that held a booth. “We want to empower people, especially women, and encourage them to work hard to start their business. That, I feel, is an important part of any culture.”
“I always feel welcome when I attend this church, and this event is no exception,” said Riham Tawasha, who ran a booth selling necklaces she created. “It really represents my culture since I’m Arabic, and here I’m able to meet a lot of wonderful, welcoming people.”