An explosion of Greek hospitality ignited Long Beach over the Labor Day weekend, September 5th – 7th with the annual Greek Festival hosted by Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on Colorado St.
Celebrating 60 years as host of the “Festival by the Sea”, the Assumption Church opened its doors to the community to share food, drink, entertainment, and their rich Hellenic culture. Three days of food and fun; over 15,000 festival goers; and an invitation to be “Greek for a day” kept this festival hopping. Admission was just a $3 donation, free on Labor Day from noon to 4pm. One of the longest running Greek festivals in California, its no wonder it’s so popular.
The church grounds were lined with white shade tents housing merchants peddling their colorful wares. Everything from jewelry and crafts to traditional Greek icon art lined the walkways. The sounds of traditional Greek string instruments bellowed through the hot September air intermingling with the fragrances of fresh foods being prepared on open grills and fire pits. The parish proudly acknowledged that all the festival foods, sweet and savory, were lovingly prepared by members of their community, offering festival goers a taste of true traditional Greek cuisine.
We decided to get out of the sun and headed for the dining area where lamb and chicken dinners were being served up home style. The chicken had been marinated and roasted on a pit making it crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. Accompanied by fresh green beans tossed in marinara sauce and a delicate rice pilaf, this dish was a winner.
We added a colorful Greek salad with cucumber, tangy red onion, Greek olives, chunks of velvety smooth feta cheese, and of course, hummus and pita. The pita was more of a flatbread, which my family enjoys more then the traditional pita. The hummus was nice, but not overly flavorful. The yummy Greek olives atop the hummus added a good flavor. This bountiful array of food cost us $20, which I found to be a bargain. The portions were generous.
Then we were off to the dessert table. The sweets, I was told, were baked in the church kitchen. Trays of six different dessert types lined the table in front of us, each for $2 a piece. Decisions, decisions! I decided on the Baklava: layers of flaky filo dough with chopped walnuts for just the right amount of crunch, all smothered in butter and honey. Rich and sweet! My husband had the kourambiethes, a melt in your mouth butter cookie topped with snowy, white powered sugar…Mmmm. My son opted for the diples, a delicate, fried dough drizzled with honey and dusted with cinnamon. No complaints there!
We ventured back into the sunshine and the swell of the crowd where Assumption Greek Dance & Cultural Arts School provided music for the party and folks enjoyed dancing and spirits. There was also a small carnival area for the kids that included rides and games. And, though it’s not Greek, Italian Brain Freeze offered a chance to cool off with their Italian water ice, with lots of flavors to choose from. The name alone screams “Fun”!
Fun and food is what the Long Beach Greek Festival is all about. Assumption Church lived up to their reputation of good food and traditional Greek hospitality once again. I know my family is looking forward to 61 years in 2010. Opa!