People immersed themselves in Greek food, dance and music on Saturday during the opening day of the 74th annual Long Beach Greek Festival.
Hosted by the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church on Colorado Street, the festival takes place every year towards the end of summer to raise funds for the church.
“It’s a really great time for church members to come together,” church memberJody Roubains said. “We work all summer, just thousands of hours of work and getting the food together.”
The festival offers an extensive menu of popular Greek cuisine over the course of three days from Sept. 2 to Sept. 4.
The food offered includes a gyro booth, meatless treats such as dolmathes and spanakopita and a taverna booth serving octopus, calamari and feta fries. Classic Greek desserts and pastry are also served, with the most popular being baklavas, according to Kathy Sharpa who makes the baked goods by hand.
“All the women in the church make these homemade,” Sharpa, who is originally from Greece, said. “We love our community and this is just a way to give back.”
The event drew many people from across Long Beach, many of which are not Greek or church goers themselves. The main goal of the event, according to Roubains, is to bring the community as a whole together.
“Especially after COVID-19, it’s been a challenge so it’s even more important that we have these events,” Roubains said.
While church members and volunteers work to produce pounds of Greek foods and desserts, another form of cultural celebration takes place on the dance floor. A band and DJ play traditional Greek music as enthusiasts like Priscella Streisand take the floor.
“This is my passion, Greek music and dance,” Streisand said. “I’m not Greek, but my heart and my feet are.”
Streisand attends the festival every year, encouraging people to engage in the traditional dances and keeping the energy high.
“Everybody accepts everybody here. We need to teach people the culture and keep the culture alive,” Steisand said.
Parking lots at Long Beach State are scheduled to be in use for festival attendees. A bus is set to transport festival goers from the school to the church. The festival is a three day event and is set to continue until Monday, Sept. 4 from 12 to 6 p.m.