Katherine Perakis, a volunteer bookstore cashier at this year's Greek Festival, sat pleasantly in the bookstore at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City.
With her white curly hair, apron and name tag, Perakis welcomed guests into the store as she sat at her desk surrounded by miniature crosses, children's Bible stories, and paintings of Christ.
A devoted member of the church since 1960, Perakis always has enjoyed volunteering during the festival.
“They put us where we're needed,” Perakis said. “The bookstore's good but when I'm working the drinking booth, that's when the real fun starts.”
Perakis is just one of many volunteers who help make the festival successful.
This year marked 28 years of the tradition with events taking place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and continuing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $3. For $12, guests could choose to feast on one of three traditional Greek dinners: Greek-styled lamb, chicken or lasagna pastichio.
Each year the festival gives a portion of its proceeds to a charity of its choice. This year, the affiliated charity is the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
The Rev. John Tsaras, who was born in Oklahoma, has been the church's priest for 16 years.
“The festival originally began as a way to help build the church,” Tsaras said. “Now it's a way of reaching out and staying involved in the community and educating people about our faith and culture.”
Repeat guests as well as newcomers filled the church and a tent outside to eat, shop for custom-made Greek jewelry and watch children and young adults perform traditional Greek folk dances.
Kosta Bargeliotes, a festival volunteer who previously served as one of the church's board members, said he was raised going to St. George and believes that the festival helps bring church members together.
“This is more than just a three-day event. There's a festival committee that decides who should run what and where everything should go.
“There's a lot of preparation that goes on before the festival. We have Greek ladies making pastries in the church's kitchen weeks beforehand.”
Aside from the traditional baklava, popular desserts were kourambiethes, which are fluffy tea cookies made with butter and topped with powdered sugar.
“My favorite part was the spanakopitas,” Matthew Wilson, 11, said of the pie-like side dish that has a crisp buttery shell and is filled with spinach and feta cheese.
Wilson's parents, Terri and Matthew Wilson, are nondenominational Christians who learned about the festival by reading a flier at a Greek restaurant they visited in Moore.
“We like experiencing new things and learning about different cultures. So far it's been a lot of fun — the food and the atmosphere are great, and the people are friendly,” Terri Wilson said.
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