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Check It Out: LA Greek Fest

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LA Greek Festival, Sept. 6-7. Photo by pink_fish13 via Flickr

Looking for something to do this weekend that is the exact opposite of the LA Triathlon? Then head over to Saint Sophia’s Cathedral at Pico / Normandie for this weekend’s LA Greek Festival, a face-stuffing celebration of the heritage (and culinary prowess) of all things Hellenic. While last night was the free admission night, the greasy, delicious meat of the festival is still to come, with today and Sunday offering authentic Greek cooking demonstrations, Greek theatre, and enough ouzo and revelry to make Dionysus blush.

Last night’s LA Greek Fest action was a great sample platter for what to expect over the weekend. Tented shops offer a variety of authentic Greek merchandise, from bracelets to books, to hard-to-find market items that belong on any Grecian table. Round the corner next to the church (more on that later) and the festival opens into a wider boardwalk of more common festival accoutrement; midway games give you the opportunity to pop half-full balloons with darts no sharper than an unshaved pencil, or find other ways to lighten your wallet and raise a smile or two. And as a staple of any fair, fest, or carnival, a lighted Ferris Wheel darts the landscape just behind the church.

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Speaking of which, Saint Sophia’s Cathedral itself is reason to check the festival out. As a first-timer here, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the ornate walls, gilded corners, and domed roof that acts as a sort of centerpiece to the whole ensemble. Tours begin and end continuously, and often culminate in a question-and-answer session with the man behind the glam, Father John Bakas. And don’t worry, Sunday services are the only time you’ll hear any dogma; for the rest of the Fest, the church is purely for secular sightseeing.

But let's be honest. You won't be going for the Ferris Wheel, or for the Hellenic necklaces, or the cathedral's numerous chandeliers. You're going for the food, and rightly you should. At the food court, patient lines wait for unwieldy pieces of spanikopita (fluffy filo pastry with spinach filling), humbling links of loukaniko (Greek sausage), or the ever-popular and always tasty gyro (beef and lamb chunks served with tzatziki cucumber sauce on a warm pita). Top off with a Hellenic beer from the beer garden or wine and ouzo from one of the many tasting stations, and your night is about to get a whole lot better, while your heart beats a little slower.

And if you're a fan of Joe Versus The Volcano (you know you are) you just might catch a glimpse of Tom Hanks, or even Rita Wilson, as this year's honorary chairs and celebrity guest hosts of the Festival. Whatever reason you choose to make it out to Saint Sophia's Cathedral grounds and Pico and Normandie, be sure to follow through. And if you're still confused, head down Pico and look for people dancing in the streets, with bellies full of baklava.

The Los Angeles Greek Festival
Saturday 1pm to 11pm, and Sunday from noon to 10pm
1324 S. Normandie Avenue
Adult admission is $5.00.