The smell of Greek food haunted many on Sept. 23 and 24 as they waited outside for the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Greek Food Festival.The food line reached all the way out and around the building.
As Weber State University continues their 14th annual Greek Festival, this is also the 14th year it’s been scheduled to coincide with the church’s own annual community Greek Food Festival that has been going on for over 30 years.
“Our culture is important to us, as is our faith,” said Father Mario Giannopoulos, who has been the Priest of the Transfiguration Church for three years. “This festival gives us an opportunity to be able to do the things that a lot of the people did in their villages before they came over, and just share with the community at large.”
Approximately 10,000 people show up every year within the two days the festival is held. The festival is also the main fundraiser of the church, supporting the Parish and its youth programs that hold several activities during the year.
“People don’t know what Greek food is until they come to our festival,” said Angie Bolos, an active church member who was in charge of the creation of all the Greek pastries that were sold at the festival. “It keeps our church going, supports our charities and brings the community together.”
The festival takes about two months to prepare and is all run on volunteer work. The Parish is a small church community, but the people do all the work, from organizing the event to preparing all the food. Most of the food that is served at the festival is also donated by local businesses that help the cause.
The festival has other attractions beside its famous food, including game booths put together by the church’s GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth of America) for children that attend the festival, the performance of traditional dancers and church tours, where Father Mario Giannopolis talks and answers religious questions.
“I believe it has a positive impact because, everything that you see, all the time that it takes to prepare everything, it’s all done by the same volunteers that make sure it gets out to the people,” Giannopolis said. Giannopolis even helped carve racks of lamb in the back in full priest garb, in between giving the church tours.
In the beginning of the festival’s history, all the events and food preparations were done in the small basement of the church’s main building as a fundraiser. In the late 1970’s, a Community Center was added to the church in order to have classrooms for the Sunday School classes and host the ever-growing public that attended the yearly festivals.
The festival is heavily anticipated, not just by the general Ogden community, but specifically by WSU students as well.
“It’s important for the community to be involved because they put so much work and effort into this,” said Kayla Whitney, a senior at WSU who had returned to the Greek food festival for the second year in a row.
Whitney had stated she enjoyed this year particularly because she had gotten to watch the dancers perform, and also try the traditional Greek scone called Loukoumathes for the first time. Her view of the Greek cultural atmosphere is that it is filled with lively and friendly people who “love to share their culture.”
“I think even more people need to come to it,” Whitney said. “Even though the lines were bigger than last year, even more need to make it because it’s such a good turnout and a positive environment.”
Though the festival only comes once a year, students with more interest in the Greek Orthodox religion or who may want to become involved in the festival process for next year may contact the Transfiguration Orthodox Church at (801) 399-2231.
“Seeing all these people here enjoying themselves, saying how good it is, makes it all worth it,” Bolos said.