The OC Greek Fest returned with delicious food, lively entertainment and above all, the neighborly Greek community
at the St. John’s Orthodox Church in Anaheim May 19, 20 and 21.
Hundreds gathered Friday, Saturday and Sunday to once again be a part of the rich and warming Greek culture.
Starting as just an “annual picnic” at Union Oil Park in Brea back in 1966, the culture event has gained much recognition. It’s traveled to Los Alamitos, Cypress and now St. John’s Greek Festival, where it has resided since the 1980s. As of now, the annual celebration has been around for over 45 years.
The celebration opened its doors at 3 p.m. and ran to 10 p.m on Friday, and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The three day celebration provided an itinerary consisting of folk dancing, church tours, cooking demonstrations and cultural Greek travel videos throughout each day.
The entertainment was traditional Greek folk dancing choreographed by Ellinika Asterakia, Nea Elpitha and Nea Zoe. The dancers were of all age groups, practicing nine months out of the year and competing locally and nationally
Numerous Greek food options were available including Souvlaki, a pita sandwich with gyro, Pastatsio, a macaroni dish with marinated ground beef and cheese, lamb kabobs, fries with feta cheese and oregano, dinner plates with chicken and lamb, and other appetizer options. There was also a booth selling various Greek pastries fit for those with a sweet tooth.
One of the volunteers of the festival and member of the church, Tim Krantz, was serving Loukoumades, which are petite puff pastries doused in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and your choice of caramel or chocolate. He, along with his wife and son, have been volunteering at the festival for three years and also at the Greek section of the OC Fest in Orange.
“We just like to serve our church,” Krantz said. “I’m a member of the Parish council. We like being with our friends.”
Krantz has been volunteering for these festivals “on and off for about 25 years.” He mentioned that studies have been made to show that people “derive the most happiness by serving others.”
“We’re Greeks, we celebrate life,” Krantz said. “We love food, we love family and also the most important thing is our religion, which is why we are doing it on our grounds here. That’s the center of everything.”
St. John’s Orthodox Church is the oldest Byzantine church in Orange County, founded in 1961. When one enters the church, they will notice the vibrant colors and intricate details of its interior, something that is known to be very different to the simplistic interiors of Roman Catholic Churches.
The Greeks are very loyal to their faith. The term Orthodox was introduced in the 5th century and is known to have two similar definitions: “true teaching” and “true praise”.
Krantz described the Greek culture of being “philoxeno”, a Greek word used to describe the act of hospitality and sharing your culture and kindness with others. Greeks, especially older Greeks, are happy to show love to a stranger. It’s the very Mediterranean style of living over there.
Local vendors selling jewelery, soap, wall art and more were also available for guests. One vendor, the Grecian Soap Company, sold goat’s milk and olive oil soaps.
“It’s my family’s business and we’ve been in business for about four years,” said Alexi Stamatic, co-owner of Grecian Soap Company. “This is our third year at the OC Greek Fest. We enjoy coming every year. It has a great atmosphere and great people.”
Their specialty soaps are named after different areas in Greece.
“One of our soaps is called ‘Aegean Sea’,” Krantz said. “We like to incorporate Greek background into our product.”
Visit the OC Greek Festival website for more information on future events.