Greek myths have enthralled many of us from the time we could sit still to hear a story. The heroics of Odysseus or the cautionary tale of Pandora still resonate after centuries. The Greek love of a good party, with great food and plenty of dancing is no myth, however. It’s very much alive and well, and is open to everyone this weekend at the 35th annual Galveston Greek Festival.

The festival on the grounds of The Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church celebrates all things Greek, including food, beer and wine, crafts, music and dancing. Traditional dishes will be available either a la carte for a street-style snack wrapped in pita bread or in a complete dinner featuring pastitsio, stuffed grape leaves, puff pastry filled with cheese or spinach, meatballs and Greek salad.

Whether indulging in the full meal or just a gyro, diners will want to accompany their food with a Greek beverage. The festival will serve two popular Greek beers, Mythos, a European pale lager style beer, and Fix, a beer made for warm days along Greece’s ample coastline, making it a fitting choice to drink on Galveston Island. Greek wine will also be available.

While the plated meal and hand-held gyros and kebabs are the centerpiece of the food offerings, few people leave without trying one, or quite a few, of the homemade desserts that members of the church have spent weeks making. Honey-sweetened baklava, made from paper-thin layers of phyllo dough and finely chopped walnuts, is sold by the piece or by the box.

Kourambiedes, also known as “Greek wedding cookies,” are buttery shortbread-style cookies that the baking committee makes by the thousands, using recipes perfected over generations. They will also be available individually for enjoying with hot coffee at the festival, or boxed to take home.

Melomakarona are perhaps the most Greek of all cookies, since they are made with olive oil instead of butter, and are bathed in honey syrup. For anyone trying to eat their way through everything at the Greek Festival, it’s good to know that melomakarona get better over time, and can be set aside to eat later rather than needing to be eaten on site with all the other tempting cookies.

Loukoumades, on the other hand, are meant to be eaten immediately while they’re still warm. Described by one cook as “Greek beignets” the dough balls don’t touch the frying oil until someone orders them, ensuring that every plateful is served at its prime. Loukoumades get an extra bit of sweetness from a shower of powdered sugar or a drizzle of honey syrup.

Besides the array of food options, the Greek Festival features music by Alex Kalos, performances by Greek dance troupes from Houston and Clear Lake, and dance lines that welcome everyone to join in. A Greek gift shop will feature imported items including icons, jewelry, paintings, gift items, imported foods, religious items, and much more.

Father Stelios Sitaras, parish priest, will conduct educational tours of the church on Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday beginning at noon. The public is invited to attend Divine Liturgy on Sunday at 10 a.m.

The Galveston Greek Festival runs Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 1824 Ball St. Admission is free with a $2 donation suggested.

Bernice Torregrossa:

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