Christopher Mavrikos serves up a delicious plate of lamb, greek salad, rice and bread at Greek Fest. The annual event, held at the Greek Community Hall, celebrates Greek heritage with food, music and dancing over two weekends. (Saanich News file photo)

Festival brings a taste of Greece to Victoria

Greek Fest runs over the next two weekends across for Commonwealth Place

Shouts of ‘Opa’ and the scent of roasting lamb will again fill the air beside Saanich Commonwealth Place over the next two weekends.

Greek Fest runs Aug. 25 to 27 and again Sept. 1 to 4 at the Greek Community Centre, 4648 Elk Lake Dr. Admission is free to the 15th annual event that runs each day from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

“It’s a normal custom in Greece, where each community, town, village, church, will put on a festival where they invite neighbours over for food and drinks and dancing,” said Jim Koutougos, Greek Fest chairperson. “It’s very common, it happens all over Greece every year.”

The sights, sounds and tempting tastes of Greece will be on display over the next two weeks.

“If the weather co-operates it’s a little piece of Greece in Victoria. We have live entertainment almost the whole day every day. And If you’re hungry we have all that delicious food for people to enjoy,” said Koutougos.

There will be a wide array of authentic Greek dishes including souvlaki, spanakopita, baklava and loukomades.

“People have to come just to try the lamb. We do the lamb on the spit, traditional Greek style. You can’t find that anywhere in Victoria, even the Greek restaurants don’t do it because it takes too long.”

The more than 20 different groups to perform over the seven days of Greek Fest include one coming all the way from Athens.

“But it’s not all Greek performers. We open up the stage to all different cultures,” said Koutougos, adding there will be acts from Portuguese to Polynesian, along with Polish, Scottish and Irish.

And the rich Greek history will also take a prominent role, with displays highlighting the contributions of those such as seaman Juan De Fuca (Ioannis Focas) – the first Greek to arrive in B.C. in 1592.

“We have a heritage museum we’ve been working on with some exhibits there for people to have a look at. We’re doing a heritage project where we’re getting the history of Greeks in Victoria and Vancouver Island,” said Koutougos.

The celebration even extends to within the walls of the Greek Orthodox Church on the site.

“We’ve been diligently working on all the art on the walls. All that has been hand painted by nuns in Greece – big spectacular murals and icons.”

Koutougos says the celebration is extended over two weeks to make it easier on the volunteers, as well as give more time for the community to join in the festivities. And of course that means shorter lineups, so you don’t have to wait for your souvlaki.

While Victoria’s Greek community only numbers about 1,500, that number will swell over the next two weekends, with about 20,000 enjoying last year’s festivities.

“We have lots of people who come to be Greeks for a day,” said Koutougos.

editor@saanichnews.com

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Lively traditional dances are just some of what you can expect to see at this year’s Greek Fest, which runs Aug. 25 to 27 and Sept. 1 to 4, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Saanich News file photo

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