The Fresno Greek Fest celebrated its 55th year this past weekend with loads of food and drinks, dancing, and water slides.
The festival started out as a one-night event five years ago and has since become a three-day celebration at St. George Greek Orthodox Church where families and loved ones can gather together to get a taste of Greek culture.
Greek Fest chairman Peter Vallis said he has been going to these festivals since he was born and has always loved how it brings people in the community together and gives others a chance to experience authentic Greek food and music.
“It represents a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Vallis said. “I think for most of the people that come, it represents their opportunity to go to Greece without having to buy the airfare.”
Vallis, who is also the executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Wine Grower Association, said he always enjoys seeing everyone happy and having a great time.
“I look forward to dealing with all the media, it is actually kind of fun for me, but I also look forward to talking with people, seeing how they like the food and how they are enjoying themselves,” Vallis said. “This is a great expression of being Greek and we want to thank people for coming out.”
For Ron Burkhard, who works in the church, the festival is not only about enjoying good food and music but also helps fund the church and keep its doors open.
“It’s wonderful,” Burkhard said. “For me, one of the greatest things is that the front entrance of the festival leads everyone right into the church so everyone can experience a little bit of what our faith is right when they come in.”
Greek Fest volunteer coordinator Michael Osborn said the festival is important for both the church and the Fresno community.
“This festival is huge and it is all put on by a relatively small community given the amount of people that come through here,” Osborn said. “It is fun, I love listening to the music and of course, all the homemade food. It is the best.”
The homemade Greek dishes at the festival included fried calamari, Greek salad, Greek chicken and lamb shank.
Julia Alfaro, a ninth grade student at University High School, has been to nine of the festivals as a volunteer to give back to the community and help out the church. Once she is done with her shift, she said there are only two things on her mind: listening to the live performers and eating.
“The music is really fun, the food is super duper good and you get to see all the different aspects of the Greek culture and that is really cool,” Alfaro said.