Monday, May 26, 2008

Valley Greek Festival

Memorial Day weekend is a good one for festivals and events in the Los Angeles area. Checking the newspaper, I see there's a Highland Games event down in Orange County, a couple of festivals in Santa Barbara, and it's Strawberry Month in Beverly Hills. We have our own Topanga Days here, but in recent years I've stopped going to fair, sticking with the 10K and the parade.

I like to get out a little, and I decided to check out the Valley Greek Festival. The festival is at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, up at the northern end of Balboa Blvd. in Northridge.

I've loved going to Greek festivals since Our Son was a toddler and we used to take him to the St. Demetrious Feast in Montlake in Seattle. They had a raised dance stage, and between performances the neighborhood's toddlers would run in circles to the recorded music on that inviting space, while watchful parents sat on the edge of the risers, nibbling Greek treats.

This was my first time to a Greek festival in Los Angeles. One of the nice things about festivals in today's Los Angeles, is that even if it's a church festival, its interaction in the neighborhood is quite ecumenical. The Korean Lutheran church across the street was doing a brisk business selling festival parking for $5 a car.

Before entering the lawn and asphalt-paved festival grounds, I entered the church for a tour. I put a couple dollars in the box and lit a candle. The sanctuary at St. Nicholas is stunning, with a nave lined with stained glass windows leading to the magnificent mosaics set behind the altar and on either side. A dome directly above the platform is ringed with colorful windows, and a mosaic portrait of Jesus and the saints look down. It is truly a beautiful sanctuary, and the docents giving the tour were very welcoming.

Outside, a large open area faced a stage where a band played. A group of young dancers performed in the open space.

Here are the kids posing for a photo in their colorful costumes:

There was a stand selling beer and Greek wine, and rows of tables under a tent for dining. You could get a whole Greek dinner with your choice of entree - souvlaki, chicken, moussaka or pastitsio - with all the accompaniments of potatoes and salad and olives. Or you could go to a gyro stand, or get a hunk of loukaniko sausage on bread. There was a stand selling kabobs and lamb chops.

But the big seller was the pastries. There were cases of baklava and kataifi, and other wonderful looking things that I couldn't possibly name. They looked delectable!

But the big draw - the item that caused the line to snake across the lawn, around the dance area, and up the walkway - were the loukoumathes:

Hot nuggets of fried dough, dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with honey.


UPDATE: Tuesday May 27 - there's a great story in the L.A. Times about the history of the Greek community in Los Angeles that mentions this festival.

1 comment:

JCK said...

Have you thought about writing a column on what to do in the LA area? You could do it!

Amazing interior church shot, G!