Local News

Saturday, Sep 07 2013 05:05 PM

Greek Food Festival all about culture, tradition

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    There was plenty of Greek dishes and pastries to go around for all during the 41st annual Greek Food Festival Saturday at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Landen Transmeier, left, and his brother Brayson were the first ones on the dance floor on a hot Bakersfield afternoon during the annual Greek Food Festival Saturday in Bakersfield.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Lacy Sutterfield gives her son Evan a taste of a hot dog during Saturday's 41st annual Greek Food Festival in Bakersfield at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Truxtun Avenue.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Nick Joiner got plenty of stares while wearing his Greek soldier uniform during Saturday's annual Greek Food Festival.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Landen Transmeier has fun wearing some Greek soldier head gear during Saturday's annual Greek Food Festival in Bakersfield.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Nathan Vidal, left, Tammie Villapondo, and Arcie Villapondo, right.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jim and Miriam Pecarovich.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Grant and Angela Hullah.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Rosalinda Muniz, left, and Judy Smith.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Micah Martin and Jerri Guevara.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Zain Ayoub, left, and Marek Pearse.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Gloria Dias, left, and Heather Wisemer.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Stephanie Cortez, left, Arabella Montero, center, and Sam Montero, right.

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

The aroma of roasted meat, onions and tomatoes wafted two blocks from the St. George Greek Food Festival on Saturday.

Celebrating its 41st anniversary, the tradition of authentic recipes passed through the generations continued this year.

"We are celebrating our food and culture and just trying to give back to our community," said Danny Andrews, festival coordinator.

The festival is part of the tradition of celebrating the fall harvest and a time when Greeks gave back to their church centuries ago. Sept. 1 was the Ecclesiastical New Year for Greeks, and it's a time of renewal, Andrews said.

The festival only lasts two days; Andrews said about 5,000 people had been through the festival as of Saturday afternoon.

"I just came back from a six-week vacation in Greece and I had to come and eat the delicious food because I miss it already," said Ellen Holfeld, who has been to the festival for the past five years.

And it's that flavorful food that Mary Mekhel is excited to prepare every year as the festival time approaches.

Although Mekhel doesn't consider herself the Greek dessert queen, her helpers agreed in unison that she is the pastry master.

"It feels great when you have community members come tell you that the baklava tastes so great," Mekhel said, laughing.

Mekhel moved to Bakersfield from Greece 13 years ago and said Bakersfield's welcoming attitude toward a variety of ethnicities really impressed her.

Making his way to the festival for the first time, Mano Lujan and his family sat in front of the music stage, waiting to enjoy a greek dance show.

"We have eaten everything and I think I have gained two pounds," Lujan said.

Lujan said he was glad he had finally made time to drive from Tehachapi and experience the Greek culture. Not only had he savored the food, but it was also a cultural lesson for his kids.

"It's a great cultural awareness for my kids because they get to try different food and food is very important because it's usually how people are introduced to cultures," Lujan said.

Although Lujan has been to other Greek festivals around California, he said there was something different about this one.

"People are nicer here and it's very family oriented," he said.

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