The three-day, 10th annual Taste of Orthodoxy celebration of Greek faith, culture and history wrapped up today. The festival is organized by the church, which includes Greek, Arab, Romanian Serbian and Russian members.
“We're trying to preserve the dances, the languages, the food as the older generations pass on,” said Nick Kallan, president of the parish council. “We can share all the different traditions. It's this little treasure of something deep down inside. When you're around your people, you feel this joy to share it.
An estimated 3,000 people attended over the weekend.
Participants described it as a three-day block party — one where people could buy kalamata olives and sheep's milk feta along with religious pictures and books in the bookstore tent. They could also learn more about orthodox Christianity and iconography and listen to a Byzantine choir.
“It's wonderful,” said Firestone's Bill Rippy.
Proceeds from food and beverage sales go to support the church and a different local charity each year. This year, the festival is supporting Lafayette's Sister Carmen Community Center.
“We plan this all year long,” said church member Rola DeGeorge.
Almost all of the food is handmade by community members. The menu includes lamb, gyros, saganaki (flaming cheese), dolmathes (stuffed grapevine leaves), kourabiethes (butter cookies), ouzo cake and loukoumades (donut holes, Greek style).
Samira Serougi is known for the light and flavorful falafel that she mixes, rolls and fries all three days of the festival. The middle eastern recipe, which includes lots of garlic and parsley, is one that has been passed down in her family for generations, she said.
“It's an old recipe,” she said. “It's special.”
Jim Zissimos, who has been a member of the church for 25 years, joked while dishing up loukoumades that the festival draws a crowd because “everybody wants to be Greek.”
“People can learn about all the cultures and taste the different foods,” he said. “We've got everything here.”
Dancing and music is another draw. Both outside groups and the church's own dance group, the Dancing Zorbas, perform. Live music is provided by Jesse Manno and Friends. The band members said they've watched the festival meld into an extended community for people from different Mediterranean ethnicities. Plus, they said, it's a fun, energy filled event to play.
“We get inspired to learn new things to play,” said singer Julia Lancaster.