IT’S ALL GREEK
HUNTINGTON — For the 36th year in a row, St. George Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Greek Festival drew crowds of hundreds of people to Huntington’s Southside area this weekend, where the sounds of traditional and modern Greek song and dance intersected with the smell of fresh souvlaki roasting on a spit.
The festival acts as the church’s largest fundraiser — the proceeds go directly toward paying clergy, sending children to church camp and other programs. Most of the revenue comes from the food people have been known to drive hours and stand in lines that wrap around the block to obtain, including pastries, coffee, gyros, spanakopita and baklava sundaes.
There are two types of food served at the festival: street food and traditional dinners. The street food — which includes souvlaki, gyro and spanakopita — is prepared and served in a similar way to how it would be found on the streets in Greece. The dinners, including moussaka and lamb dinners, are served inside the church.
Lambros Svingos has been part of the festival for all 28 years of his life. His aunt is the festival president, another aunt is in charge of the pastries, his uncle is in charge of the gyro booth, and his father ran the gift booth for 35 years, up until he passed away last year. This year, Svingos took over the gift booth role.
Svingos said the Greek Festival is a lot like Thanksgiving: It’s homey, there’s a ton of food and it’s sort of a family reunion.
“We don’t have a very large Greek population in West Virnitelyginia, but what is here, we defilove to express our love for our culture and traditions,” Svingos said. “Tradition in our faith, tradition in our love for each other and our loyalty to each other, and always welcoming people whether they’re Greek or not.”
Svingos said one of his favorite traditions is the zeibekiko dance, a freestyle dance that is centered around the expression of the individual dancers. Occasionally, dancers will perform tricks like balancing a glass of liquid, usually alcohol, on their heads while dancing.
“Greek people love the little things in life, like food and dancing,” Svingos said. “We can share our massive amounts of love for the small things in life, and that to me is one of my favorite things.”
The festival continues from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30. Guests can enjoy dancing at 1 p.m., and church tours will be given at 2 p.m. Visit www.stgeorgehwv.org/festival/ for the full schedule and the full menu.
Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Facebook and Twitter @megosborneHD.