There’s never a dearth of things to do in Las Vegas and many of them do not involve gambling nor the Strip. This past weekend the 47th Annual Greek Food Festival took place and, for the first time, we decided to attend. Sponsored by St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, this food fest was rated as #1 in Nevada by National Geographic. The festival promised Greek music, dancing, food and crafts. How could we not go?
The day was sunny, breezy and moderately cool for Las Vegas in the mid-70s, a pleasant autumnal respite from the triple digit temps of just a few weeks ago. I pried David away from Blue’s upfit and we headed to the west side of town to the festival venue. The Las Vegas Valley is an extremely ethnic-diverse city, so learning about and celebrating cultural differences is part of the allure for us. Plus, Greece may be part of the itinerary for an upcoming walk and we wanted to learn more about it and food and drink seem to be a great way to sample a culture, don’t you think?
Though I’d attended a Greek Orthodox wedding many decades ago (the best, most fun wedding ever), we didn’t know much about the religion itself. We were invited for a tour of the church which was not only interesting, but lighthearted and educational. Two resident priests explained the Greek Orthodox beliefs (not so different than my Roman Catholic upbringing with a few basic differences) in simple terms with no attempt to convert, just to provide information. The church itself is beautiful and the congregation is obviously very proud of it. The traditional iconography which decorated the church was rich and symbolically complex.
We wandered the spacious grounds, sampling a souvlaki here, Greek fries there and even Greek beer. We’re no strangers to Greek food… heck we eat Greek yogurt every morning and kalamata olives are a staple in our household. Souvlaki with tzatziki sauce and baklava aren’t usually on our dinner menu though we love both and we were happy to experiment a little, too, with dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves). There was plenty of ouzo and retsina, but we had to drive home after, so we stuck with a beer.
Lambs were roasting on revolving spits, sizzling and well-attended by the ‘spit-masters’. I don’t eat lamb, but the aromas that permeated the area were wonderfully compelling. I could see hungry festival goers queuing up for a taste in a few hours.
It was a carnival atmosphere… rides and a climbing wall for the kids, games of skill (??? and luck) for carny quality prizes. Live Greek musicians entertained all afternoon, but we missed the traditional dancers that wouldn’t appear till later in the evening. Vendors sold all things Greek… flags, statues, t-shirts… but you certainly didn’t need to be Greek to appreciate it and enjoy it.
All in all, a fine way to spend a day in Las Vegas. Now… the real fun starts as we enter final countdown mode for departure our cross-country trip. OPA!