If you have never been to a Greek festival, then you need to stop right now and go mark your calendar for next weekend, Oct. 15 and 16. Well, finish reading this column and then go save the date.
Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Church in south Forsyth County will hold its seventh annual Cumming Greek Festival.
I love festivals and have been to countless ones, but I have to tell you, nothing rivals a well-done Greek festival. Why? Because the combination of fun people, mouth-watering food, festive music and dancing and interesting little shops equals hours of entertainment.
I recently met with friend David Roberts, the chairman of the event. A huge undertaking, David chaired the festival for the first time last year. All of the hours he spent and the careful planning paid off.
More than 5,000 people visited and by all accounts had a blast. For most of us, heading up such an event would be a daunting task. But David, who must be the most organized man I have ever met, takes it all in stride and is quick to give credit to those around him.
"There is something so wonderful about seeing the immense cooperation involved," David said. "We have the culinary students at South Forsyth involved, young people at Pinecrest Academy will also be on hand helping clearing tables — plus approximately 100 volunteers from the church."
I asked David why he thought Greek festivals are such fun.
"The Greeks are a happy people," he said. "It is so wonderful to see the older grandparents listening to the traditional music, dancing, and watching their grandchildren experiencing a festival that is just like the ones they grew up going to in Greece."
And let me assure you, you do feel as if you are transported to a small Greek village while there. The centerpiece is a big stage complete with musicians playing all sorts of traditional Greek music. When the musicians are not playing, there is a sound system that keeps the beat going. There are dance groups from around Atlanta that perform and are fun to watch.
There are various little shops selling all sorts of trinkets, scented soaps and pure Greek olive oil, among other things. And for a pick-me-up, there is a kafenion, selling Greek coffees and liqueurs.
If you have young children, there is a special area for them to play. Perhaps not surprisingly, my favorite part of the festival is the big taverna, or Greek restaurant.
My mouth is already watering thinking about the gyros, souvlaki and pastitsio, just to name a few of their tasty dishes. We like to get a little bit of everything and let everybody sample all of it.
After stuffing yourself, you have to go have some loukomades (think delicious fried dough), which are cooked right in front of you. A little drizzle of honey, and then you can head over to the coffee stand.
David said there are a few new things this year. First, there will be a drive-thru service.
"Some people may want to sample the food, but don’t have time to come for a long visit to the festival," he said.
Another new element is that the festival will be streaming live during both days. Even if you cannot make it to the event, plan on checking it out online.
I asked one of my Greek friends if being in a big, Greek family was anything like the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." That is one of my favorite movies, but we all know how movies can stereotype people.
My friend laughed and said that while it was exaggerated in some ways, it was not far off in most aspects. She told me that Greeks love their families and at the festival, they want everybody to feel like they are part of the family.
One thing is for sure — Greeks know how to throw a party. Please join me and all of my Greek friends at the Greek festival this year. Opa!