Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 7:25 pm | Fair 54º

Greek Festival to Provide Santa Barbara with a Taste of the Old Country

By Shaun Kahmann, Noozhawk Intern | @NoozhawkNews |

Santa Barbara’s annual Greek Festival returns with authentic Greek music and cuisine next weekend at Oak Park.

Sponsored by St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, the July 26-27 celebration will include as many as 20 booths selling authentic Greek dishes like gyros and souvlaki prepared by parishioners.

Greek musicians new and old will be featured, including DJ Pete Loukatos, The Village Greeks and a performance from Chris Hillman, founding member of 1960s rock band The Byrds.

The festival will take over Oak Park, at 300 W. Alamar Ave., and feature two dance areas and a $1 raffle with a prize of two round-trip plane tickets to Greece.

There will be a free shuttle service to the festival from Sansum Clinic, 317 W. Pueblo St. across from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

There is no charge for admission and a portion of this year’s proceeds will go to the church.

Father Simon Thomas, a priest at St. Barbara who works closely with the church’s festival committee, said as many as 15,000 people are expected to attend the festival.

Thomas stressed that the event wasn’t just for those of Greek ancestry or churchgoers, but for all of Santa Barbara.

“We’re consistently humbled and surprised by the turnout from people all over town, and we want to give people the best experience possible,” he said. “This is the cheapest way to visit Greece without buying a plane ticket.”

The popular meze appetizer booth will be featuring vegetarian options like tiropita stuffed with feta cheese, along with thousands of authentic Greek pastries like walnut and yogurt cakes.

Organized solely by the church, parishioners are responsible for preparing all of the dishes that will be sold at the festival’s many booths.

Parishioner Andriana Kolendrianos has spent the last few months, with more than her share of 11-hour days, toiling with other parishioners to furnish enough pastries for the festival’s visitors.

After 35 years of service and earning the title “chair of pastries,” she said baking in massive quantities is still a big challenge.

“Many dishes intended only for a few had to be tweaked to serve thousands,” she said. “But it’s fun, because it means the only way to get the variety of pastries we make is to come to the festival.”

A traditional Greek “blessing of the water” ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and a full church service will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday prior to the festival.

Click here for the Greek Festival entertainment schedule and for more information.

Noozhawk intern Shaun Kahmann can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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