Eat Greek and give back starting August 23

If you have had a hankering for souvlaki or arni psito (lamb roasted on a spit), or feel like shouting OPA!  then it’s probably time for Greek Fest, an annual event for people of all ages to indulge in Greek cuisine and culture over two weekends – rain or shine.

Admission is free.

The celebration of Greek culture and cuisine takes place Friday to Sunday Aug. 23-25 and Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at the Victoria Hellenic Centre, beside Saanich Commonwealth Place. Seniors can enjoy a 10% discount on all food on the first day, Friday, Aug. 23.

This is Greek Fest’s 18th year. It is hosted by members and volunteers of the Victoria and Vancouver Island Greek Community who never think twice about volunteering countless hours for its annual Greek Fest.

More than 23,000 locals and visitors are expected to come over the two weekends to sample authentic food and learn about an ancient culture.

The event also has an altruistic side. Over the years, proceeds from the event have supported more than a dozen charities that serve children, families and communities across Vancouver Island, British Columbia and the broader global community.  This year proceeds will go to Tillicum Hot Lunch Program. “This is a great cause,” said Tim Petropoulos, president of the Victoria and Vancouver Island Greek Community Society. “When our community learned just how many students go to school without a proper breakfast or lunch, we were shocked. As a board, we really felt we needed to act and offer some much-needed help.”

“It’s the Greek way to invite all the neighbours to join in celebrations and to share food, fun and festivities.” says Petropoulos,

Folks can visit the Greek marketplace which sells pastries, feta, olives, trinkets, gifts and more, then sit down and enjoy plates of souvlaki, gyros, Greek salad, tzatziki and the mouthwatering spanakopita with a cold glass of beer or wine. Guests can also devour fresh pastries such as baklava, kourabiedes and hot honey-covered doughnuts called loukoumades, a festival favourite. Those interested can also sign up for Greek cooking lessons.

Apart from the yummy food, the festival is renowned for its continuous live music and folk dancing from more than 25 groups from different cultural backgrounds. One group, the ELKELAMDance Group is travelling all the way from Athens, Greece to perform at the festival.

If all those acts inspire you, you can kick up your heels and join members of the dance groups on stage at the end of the day.

If your legs get tired, you can take a break and enjoy a guided tour of the Ypapanti Greek Orthodox Church with its frescoes and distinctive iconography collection. Tours begin at 1pm and 6pm throughout the festival.

To learn about the history and culture of Greece and Greeks in British Columbia, visit the Greek Heritage Museum that celebrates the rich traditions and culture of the Greek people and their contributions to Victoria. The Greek Heritage Project/ Museum is currently undertaking an extensive genealogy project documenting the people and history of the Greek community dating back to first Greek to reach Vancouver Island, Juan De Fuca (John "Ioannis" Fokas) in 1592. The museum will be open 11am – 8pm during the festival and can be found on the 2nd Floor, Rear Wing in the Victoria Greek Community Centre.

Giveaways and Prizes this year include stage giveaways, a Trip for Two to GREECE, a 1 year membership to Commonwealth Place and an Apple iPad.

This fun family event is made possible with support from over 30 generous sponsors such as Times Colonist, Global Tents, Province of BC, SeaFirst Insurance Brokers, 98.5 The Ocean, CFAX, and The Q 100.3  to name a few.

This festival is free. It runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. both weekends at the Victoria Hellenic Centre, 4648 Elk Lake Dr.

For more information, go to www.greekfest.ca

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