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Festival celebrates Greek culture, faith
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Forsyth County News

If you’re going

* What: Greek Festival

* When: Today-Sunday — 3 to 10 p.m. today; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday (Toga Trot at 9 a.m.); 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

* Where: St. Raphael, Nicholas & Irene Greek Orthodox Church, 3074 Bethelview Road

* Online:

For the ninth year, the Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Church is holding the Cumming Greek Festival, a three-day celebration of culture, faith and food that begins today.

Father Barnabas Powell said he’s hoping to top last year’s attendance of 7,000.

“If our parking holds up, we’ll be approaching 8,000 or 9,000, God willing,” he said. “This is the one time a year where we throw open the doors to the entire community and invite everybody to have dinner with us.”

The event, which continues through Sunday, features traditional Greek music, dance performances and hand-crafted items, including clothing, ceramics, jewelry and copper. There also will be plenty of Greek food.

“My favorite is the lamb shanks, I always like that the best, but a lot of folks like the gyro,” Powell. “As far as the sweets go, everybody loves baklava.

“The problem is we sell out of those sweets and the baked stuff pretty quickly, so I always tell folks to go to the pastry section first so you’re able to get what you want.”

Part of what makes the festival a community event is most items are hand made by the church’s congregation.

“The festival is a volunteer thing and it really takes up a lot of time and it’s a lot of hard work and it’s certainly worth it,” Powell said.

He added that the church also has a special relationship with South Forsyth High School, which has been working with Greek Yai Yais, or grandmothers, to make traditional foods for the event.

“It’s really pretty cool,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to share what we’ve found to be real authentic treasures.”

The festival is a fundraiser for the church, with proceeds going toward renovating a residence next to the church into a fellowship home, as well as local charities.

While the festival is designed as a community celebration, the focus is on faith, Powell said, with tours of the church available.

“The centerpiece of our festival is the sharing of our faith,” he said. “Orthodoxy is not very well known, especially here in the rural South.”