700 pounds of meat highlight Greek festival

Traditional Greek music, dancing and 700 pounds of lamb highlighted the 45th annual Greek festival this weekend at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia Heights.

“One of the things that makes a festival work is food,” said Bernie Thornberg, who oversaw the preparation of the classic Greek lamb dish sold at the festival.

To give patrons a better sense of Greek culture, the church sold groceries, ready-made food and religious icons at the fair. Parish Council President Matt Tiches said all of the proceeds from the weekend festival would fund church operations.

“People come here to try out our culture,” said Peter Paleologos, co-chairman of the festival. “Our very purpose is the food, drink and merry dancing.”

Thornberg said church members prepared more then 700 pounds of lamb for the three-day event. Visitors agreed that the authentic, home-cooked food was the best part of the Greek festival.

“I like the food,” said Catholic University sophomore Eleni Vaklopoulos. “I’ve been (going to Greek festivals) since I was 9.”

“The food is really good,” said Jason O’Neal, a sophomore at the University of Northern British Columbia in Canada. “I learned one of the Greek dances. That was pretty fun.”

The church’s younger members performed traditional Greek dances, another of the yearly festival’s highlights.

“So many people come specifically to see the kids dance,” said Alexandra Pittas, who organized the festival’s dance element. “It’s a generational thing. I did it when I was their age, so now it’s fun watching them do it.”

“I’ve been dancing since, like, I was four,” said festival patron Yienne Sideris. “It’s my favorite part.”

Several visitors said the just enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere at this year’s festival.

“The atmosphere is like a huge, huge family,” Catholic University sophomore Nick Meyer said. “It’s great.”

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