Festival brings a taste of Greece to the Island

Greek Fest begins Friday and will run over next two weekends

A member of the Horeftikos Omilos Mesologgiou dance troupe leaps in to the air during a performance at a previous Greek Festival.

Those who can’t afford a trip to the Mediterranean can get a little taste of Greece right here in Saanich this weekend.

Greek Fest is back over the next two weekends, running this Friday through Sunday as well as over the long weekend, Sept. 4 to 7.

The food, entertainment and culture of Greece will be celebrated at the Greek Orthodox Church and Community Centre during the 14th annual festival.

“It’s Greek entertainment, Greek music and Greek dancing, but we’ve also invited groups from other different cultures as well to do performances,” said Jim Koutougos, one of the organizers of Greek Fest. “A big focus is definitely the food. We have all kinds of delicious things for people to come and enjoy.”

Along with traditional favourites like souvlaki and roast lamb, there will be vegetarian dishes as well like Greek salad and spanakopita.

“There will be some delicious desserts as well,” said Koutougos. “The little Greek doughnuts are really popular as well, called loukkoumades.”

And while you’re enjoying the food and entertainment, there will also be a chance to get a taste of the Greek culture.

“We’ve got a heritage room. It’s sort of a Greek history museum that we’ve started up,” said Koutougos.

The heritage exhibit explores the history of Greeks in British Columbia, where you can learn about Juan De Fuca (Ioannis Focas) the first Greek to arrive to sail B.C.’s waters in 1592. Another famous Greek in local history is the seaman Kapiotis, who settled at Fort Victoria and married Marrie-Ann, the daughter of a Songhees chief. His granddaughter, Orsa, married John Douglas, grandchild to B.C.’s first governor Sir James Douglas.

There will also be tours of the the Greek Orthodox Church, which is nearing completion, with beautiful icons adorning the walls.

“These are actually painted by nuns from a monastery in Greece and they’re quite impressive,” said Koutougos.

Greek Fest originally started out as a three-day event, but with crowds of thousands coming to enjoy the festivities organizers decided to extend it over seven days.

“We did it over a week before and it was a little bit hard on the volunteers, to be honest, with most people working during the week,” said Koutougos. “It was just too taxing on everybody so we decided to split it up. That way if people are away on vacation or they’re camping, they might get another chance to come by.”

While the days of the festival may have changed, admission is still free. And while you’re filling up on Greek delicacies you will also be helping to put food on the plates of some Victoria students as the society is again partnering with Saanich Fire Department to raise funds for the Hot Lunch Program.

“It’s a program for elementary schoolchildren that perhaps don’t have the means to have a lunch everyday,” said Koutougos.

The community centre is located at 4648 Elk Lake Dr., next to Commonwealth Place, and the festival runs daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 28-30 and Sept. 4-7.





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